Sunday, May 30, 2010

Machal and American Memorial Day


Photo from

This weekend the United States observes Memorial Day, remembering her war dead.
With this post Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo seeks to honor the Americans who died in battle HERE, helping Israel in our War of Independence.

The Burma Road in this picture was besieged Jerusalem's lifeline during the war.

In the forest near both the old Burma Road and the modern Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway, near Sha'ar Hagai, you will find (if you look hard enough) the Machal memorial bearing this simple plaque:

The names of the four women and 117 men Machalniks who gave their life for Israel.
Machal stands for Mitnadvay Chutz LaAretz, meaning Volunteers from outside Israel.

Between 1947 and 1949, when Israel came under attack from every surrounding Arab country, some 3,500 Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers came to help.
Those who needed it were given some quick training and then sent to fight together with Israel's fledgling army and air force.
Some were already veterans of World War II and some had just come out of concentration camps.
These are the estimated numbers of foreign volunteers who came:
U.S.A. 1,000 and some 250 from Canada. South Africa 700. The UK 600. North Africa 250. Latin America 250.
Smaller numbers came from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Australia, the Belgian Congo, Rhodesia, and Russia.
Machal volunteers also played a central role in facilitating Aliya Bet, the "illegal" immigration of 32,000 immigrants, many of them Holocaust survivors, who were not allowed to disembark on pre-state Israel's shores by the British when the British Mandate was still in force.
After serving Israel in her hour of greatest need 3,000 Machal members returned to their home countries, but 500 stayed or returned soon after to make Israel their home.
Dr. Jason Fenton, who wrote the book on Machal, came as a 16-year-old (see more here) and tells it like this:

"Our motives for going to Israel were diverse and not always clear to ourselves. Many had fought in Word War II and found it hard to settle down. Some were imbued by Zionist ideology, others suddenly discovered their commonality with the Jewish people. Some were genuine idealists, others came to escape personal problems. Almost all, I think, were drawn by the chance to take part in a truly epochal event, for which generations of Jews had yearned for close to 2,000 years. "


USelaine said...

I didn't know this story - thank you Dina. And thank you always for your visits and comments. 8^)

Thru Pink Curtains said...

Boy you take the cake for all the R"s good thinking. and inspiring. nice pictures. thank you.

Musings said...

A courageous part of Israel's history. Memorial Day is a good time to remember all those who fought not only for their countries but others as well.

reader Wil said...

Thank you for sharing this information about the genesis of the state of Israel. I read the book "Exodus"about that time, and was deeply moved.
Thanks for your visits and kind comments.

Dina said...

P.S. from Dina
I forgot to mention that this is a reprint of my Memorial Day 2008 post.

crederae said...

beautiful Dina,
I have to say that some of the most beautiful art that I have seen in any journal has come from this site.
-your beautiful photographs of art work. I was scrolling and saw the calendar where each day is marked with a wooden sculpture.BEAUTIFUL, so aesthetically pleasing and yet functional at the same time. This is the nicest art I have seen on the net.
It has inspired me to be more expressive on my calendar.The idea to celebrate each day and remember.


VP said...

Burma Road reminds me of Mickey Marcus and the movie Cast a Giant Shadow...

Dr M said...

Like the Men of of Issachar, they understood the times and knew what Israel should do. May their memories be for a blessing.

Jew Wishes said...

Thank you for this poignant story and the lovely photos.

Louis la Vache said...

This is a wonderful Memorial Day/Machal post, Dina.

JM said...

There is a Burma Road in China, but why there, Dina?

I've been following the latest news and I am very concerned about what might happen next...

Dina said...

JM, you are right to be concerned.

And about the OTHER blockade, here is your answer:

The Burma Road, named for the road paved by the Allies from Burma to China during World War II, was built in 1948 in order to get water and food and supplies through to the Jews in Jerusalem, which was under siege by the Arabs. Jordan's Transjordan Legion controlled the high points along the real road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so the makeshift bypass was built.
Mickey Marcus (as VP says, the hero of the movie Cast a Giant Shadow) was the American soldier serving in Israel who came up with the idea of the Burma Road.

JM said...

Dina, thank you so much for answering my question.

Reader Wil said...

I didn't know this history, but I read "Exodus" by Leon Uris, which made a great impression on me. This must be at the same time these foreigners were fighting for the independence of Israel. Thanks Dina for this post. Thanks also for your help with entering last week's ABC !

Reader Wil said...

I am surprised to see that old comment of mine with the poppies as avatar. I have written an almost similar comment right now.

Sara said...

Years ago I read a fascinating series of novels by Boede Thoene that went into a lot of the history of the establishment of the state of Israel. Your post reminds me of them...very interesting.

moneythoughts said...

It is Monday evening in the states and the boarding of the ships has been on all the news stations and cable news as well. I side with Israel on this one. A blockade has a purpose and Israel was willing to move the cargo on to Gaza, but they were not going to let Hamas import any rockets. Israel takes no pleasure in people dying, but Israel has a right to protect itself from rocket attacks, and that is the bottom line. While world opinion may be against Israel, to me that means little. Where was world opinion when the Jews in Europe needed a country to let them in?