Stanley Medicks – The man behind the Mahal Memorial

Nairobi-born volunteer led platoon in the Galilee in War of Independence.

STANLEY MEDICKS 370 (photo credit: courtesy)
(photo credit: courtesy)
Stanley Medicks, who died in England earlier this month at the age of 82, was a commander in Mahal (Volunteers from Abroad) during the War of Independence and later served as chairman of British and Scandinavian Mahal.
He was the instigator of the Mahal Memorial at Sha’ar Hagai, west of Jerusalem, and organized the Mahal Exhibit at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People last year.
Medicks was born on September 27, 1925 – Yom Kippur – in Nairobi, Kenya, and died at a hospital in London on June 10.
The Medicks family (or Mardygs as some were known) left Poland in the early 1900s when it was thought a state of Israel was to be established in Uganda. They settled instead in Kenya. Fervent Zionists, his parents had a photo of Theodor Herzl on the wall in their living room.
Medicks was immensely proud of his heritage and spoke often about his mother, the president of Nairobi WIZO, and his father, who was a partner in the East African Tank and Metalwork Company with his uncle.
His father was a sheet metal worker and Medicks was proud that his family built the roof of Nairobi’s first synagogue, established by his uncle. He attended the prestigious Prince of Wales School and then joined the King’s African Rifles regiment in 1943.
He served nearly four years in Ethiopia and Somalia, and much to his later regret, even trained Idi Amin. In 1976, Amin – then the president of Uganda – personally welcomed the terrorists who hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe, and his troops were responsible for killing the heroic commander of Israel’s hostage-rescue mission, Lt.- Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Upon leaving the army, Medicks returned to Kenya and attended a talk given in February 1948 by then-chief rabbi Louis Rabinovitch about what was happening in Palestine.
He immediately volunteered for the Hagana and traveled with 804 South African Mahal in August 1948 to fight in the War of Independence.
He was posted to the 72nd Infantry Battalion of the prestigious 7th Brigade as a platoon commander and was involved in fighting for the liberation of the Galilee. The platoon was made up of recruits from South Africa, Europe, Canada, US, Costa Rica and India. He was wellknown by his some 60 men who considered him a fearless officer of the “follow me” tradition, always leading from the front. Sadly there are now only a handful of these 60 still around. His soldiers have always remembered him with affection, devotion, admiration and respect.
After the war, Medicks helped build the sewage system in Mamilla, Jerusalem, and met and married his first wife, Monica, in Israel. She was an English journalist who had volunteered to fight with the Irgun as an intelligence officer.
They decided not to settle in Israel and went to live in Nairobi. Following the Mau Mau uprising they moved to London. Unable to find work as a sanitary engineer, Medicks started a second-hand car business in Camden Town, northwest London, that he ran for 30 years. He was proud to have been “an honest car dealer.”
In 1988, Medicks formed the British and European Mahal Association and enrolled over 300 volunteers. Many were Holocaust survivors and had come to England with the Kindertransport. Meetings and reunions were held not only in London but also in European countries. Through the offices of the IDF military attachés in London, Stanley arranged the belated presentation of Israeli war medals to its members.
Thanks to Medicks’s dream and determination, as well as fund-raising assistance from Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, a beautiful World Mahal Memorial to the volunteers who died was built in 1993 and inaugurated by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Most the volunteers had already experienced the horrors of war as soldiers, sailors and airmen in the Allied militaries.
A dozen or so had been prisoners-of-war, but still they came, flocking to the assistance of the fledgling Jewish state, by land, sea and air.
Some 4,500 volunteers joined Mahal (a Hebrew acronym for “Mitnadvei Hutz La’aretz”) from 58 countries.
Of these, 123 – men and women – were to make the supreme sacrifice. Thanks to Medicks, their names are inscribed on the wall of the Memorial amphitheater: Eighteen were married, at least 12 had been decorated for gallantry or distinguished service in World War II, 11 were non- Jewish, four were women, 10 were only 17 or 18 years old.
The Memorial is sited in the Yitzhak Rabin Park at Sha’ar Hagai.
At the entrance to the famous Burma road built by hand to connect Tel Aviv to besieged Jerusalem, the site is a focal point and meeting place for Mahalniks to gather, learn and remember. An annual service is held on Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars.
In 2012, Medicks traveled to Israel to take part in the opening of a Mahal Exhibition which he instigated and helped fund at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, in Tel Aviv.
Only a couple of months ago, he spoke at the Tricycle Theatre in London which was showing 804, a film about the South African volunteers in the War of Independence, as part of Jewish film week. It can be seen on YouTube.
He is survived by his long-term partner, Marion, and his children, Ashley and me, stepchildren, Charlotte and Clive, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The writer is the daughter of Stanley Medicks.

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