The Machal and/Aliyah Bet Legacy
On view: January 19, 2011 to July 19, 2011
This exhibition tells the little-known story of “Machal,” Hebrew for the “volunteers from abroad” who fought in Israel’s War of Independence. Close to 1500 North American men and women (among volunteers from other countries) participated in this effort. At the time of their participation, many of these individuals had been only recently decommissioned from service in World War II. They chose again to risk their lives, not to mention their citizenship, by piloting the ships that illegally transported thousands of Holocaust survivors to Palestine in the face of a determined British naval blockade. Subsequently, the “Machalniks” joined all branches of the military that fought to make Israel a living reality. It was principally Machalniks who created the future Israeli navy and air force; principally Machalniks who transported vital arms and hardware to the fledgling and embattled state; and principally Machalniks who provided crucial air support to fend off the invading armies engulfing Israel.
Machal’s achievements remain largely unheralded even to this day. The Machal veterans themselves long hesitated to tell their stories for fear of endangering their legal status in their home countries, while the government of Israel was more eager to tout the deeds of its own native and adopted sons. Because of the advanced age of most of these veterans, few opportunities still remain to give them a just recognition. This is why AJHS, which recently became the permanent home of the Machal archives (including letters, diaries, official documents, photographs, and objects), has seized this moment to tell their story. This beautiful new exhibition, based on a design created by a Machal veteran, offers a fascinating introduction to this important but neglected topic.