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Honouring the Overseas Volunteers


70 years ago, 4500 brave men and women (from 59 countries) volunteered in the War of Independence. Machal is an acronym for 'Mitnadvei Chutz L'Aretz', the 'volunteers from overseas'. Over 800 of these volunteers came from South Africa. Most had served in the Allied Forces during the Second World War and brought with them much needed expertise and experience. They fought valiantly and with distinction in every branch of the IDF – including the Airforce, Navy, Artillery, Armored Corps, Infantry, Medical Corps and Engineers.  Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said that "the Machal Forces were the Diaspora's most important contribution to the survival of the State of Israel".

The Machal programme continues today with 350 new Machalniks inducted into the IDF each year.  On Wednesday 18 April 2018, with the sounding of the siren across the country, the World Machal Organisation, in conjunction with the JNF, held its annual Yom HaZicharon service at the Machal Memorial site at Sha'ar Ha'Gai, near Beit Shemesh. The ceremony honoured the memory of the 123 Fallen Machal Comrades and was attended by 300 people, including Machalniks from 1948 until today, their families and friends.

The ceremony was conducted by Tzipporah Porath – a member of the Haganah, who fought in the siege of Jerusalem and was also a Machal Medic in the Israeli Airforce in 1948 – and Gideon Ben-Amar (son of Machalnik Ruth Stern). The lighting of the Memorial Flame was performed by 1948 South African Machalnik, Simon Manor, together with Meir Haberman (a Machalnik from Argentina) and was followed by the wreath laying by 1948 South African Machalnik Simon Novikow and Sharon Deschenes (the daughter of Fallen Canadian Machal Fred Stevenson). Tzemach Bloomberg of Machal South Africa 1956, together with Hymie Josman (South Africa), Hymie Goldblatt (South Africa), Fred Salant (South Africa) and Corinne Mackay Amber (granddaughter of Fallen Canadian Machal Fred Stevenson) read the names of the 123 Fallen Machalniks, together with their countries of origin.

Ruth Stern, a Machal South Africa 1948 nurse shared the heart-rending personal stories of four brave women who paid the ultimate price during their 1948 Machal service. Greetings from Telfed were brought by CEO, Dorron Kline, himself a Machalnik from South Africa in 1987. In his adaptation of Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Gettysburg Dorron said that "Three score and ten years ago, our fathers and mothers brought forth on this continent, a renewed nation, conceived in Liberty after the Holocaust and dedicated to the proposition that all Jews are created equal to other nations and deserve a state of their own… We highly resolve that these 123 brave Machalnikim  shall not have died in vain – that this Israeli nation, under God, shall have a rebirth of freedom – and that government of the Jewish people, by the Jewish people and for the Jewish people shall not perish from the earth".

Smoky Simon, Chairman of World Machal, expressed his appreciation to all who participated in the ceremony. After the ceremony, Smoky Simon spoke with the Guard of Honour about the role of the Machal in the IAF while Ruth Stern related her experiences to the schoolchildren.   

Yitzhak Rabin, former Prime Minister, said of the overseas volunteers: 'You came to us when we needed you most, during those hard and uncertain days of our 1948 War of Independence. You gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well. The People of Israel and the State of Israel will never forget, and will always cherish this unique contribution made by you – the volunteers of Machal".

To watch videos from the MAHAL Memorial Service 2018, click on the links below


The Monument:

Lowering the Flag and Larry Brandt plays the Bugle: 

The Ceremony: 

Song 1: Ayala Ziderman and Itai Lifshitz:

Quotations: Students at Banko Weiss High School in Bet Shemesh:

Song 2: Ayala Ziderman and Itai Lifshitz:

Miami Jewish Federation Placing a Wreath:

Hatikva: Ayala Ziderman and Itai Lifshitz:

Andy Michaelson (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael) and Dorron Kline (TELFED):

Smoky Simon:

Wreaths and Memorial Flame:


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