Aliyah Bet & Machal Virtual Museum

North American Volunteers In Israel's War of Independence

The Dedication of the Machal Memorial at Ammunition Hill

Jerusalem Machal Memorial Daytime

Thanking Those Who Volunteered

By Daniel Fliegler


1948….The situation in the new State of Israel was truly dire. Six Arab armies attacked the Jewish state with the sole purpose of annihilating it. They thought they could easily massacre its 600,000 Jewish inhabitants. What the Arabs and a great part of the world did not count on was the rallying to the Jewish State of 4800 volunteers from 59 countries, with 168 of them being non-Jews. Smoky Simon, the Chair of the World Machal organization, expressed at the dedication of the monument at Ammunition Hill honoring the Machal volunteers in Jerusalem: “We are very proud of them”. 


The volunteers or Machalniks in Hebrew were mostly veterans of the Second World War. Many witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust and were determined not to let it happen again. With their skills honed in fighting the Axis powers, they helped make the difference in Israel’s fight for survival. They manned the ships that brought Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to Israel in defiance of the British naval blockade. They clandestinely procured the planes and made up the nucleus of the fledgling Israeli air force. They flew the few fighter planes brought in and stopped the Egyptian army’s advance on Tel-Aviv. They ferried arms to Israel that were critically needed to push back the enemy and served in every branch of the fledgling IDF. Describing the miraculous victory, Simon quoted from David Ben-Gurion, “If you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist”. Some of the volunteers performed important leadership roles in the new Israeli armed forces. Paul Schulman headed the navy; Al Schwimmer procured the planes and helped organize the air force; Mickey Marcus became the first general of the Israeli army in nearly two thousand years.


It was for these reasons that the event was organized by Jerry Klinger. In his remarks at the dedication, Klinger said that the two most important words that he knows are: “Thank you”. Klinger has been instrumental in expressing this sentiment through concrete actions. It was under his leadership that this summer a monument was dedicated in Haifa port for the famed Aliya Bet ship: “Exodus 1947”. Klinger has made it his mission to establish these “markers”, as he calls them, so that the past is not forgotten and those who volunteered are shown the appreciation that they deserve. It is fitting that this monument to the Machalniks is located at Ammunition Hill; the scene of a decisive battle as Israel liberated all of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.


The festivities were held during the Hanukah festival with a torch relay race by hundreds of IDF soldiers starting at the Western Wall and ending at Ammunition Hill. There it continued with heartfelt presentations, a mini-concert, fireworks and the lighting of the Menorah. Dignitaries included Mayor Barkat, Major General Numa, and Housing Minister Galant among others. Board of Directors members of the American Veterans of Israel Legacy were also present, including the President of the Board Jeffrey Margolis, Jerry Klinger, Donna Parker, and this author.