1948 heroes re-create history

64 years separate these two remarkable photographs.

1948 heroes re-create history
72nd Command Battalion October 1948.

Standing: Luther Brand (SA), unidentified (UK), Joe Woolf (SA), A unique contribution Sam Fagen (Canada) and Jack Franses (UK).
Middle: Unidentified (UK). Kneeling: Gachal Platoon Cook (Romania), Harry Frankel (UK), Ruben Saul (India) and Sollo-de-Haas (Holland).
Sitting: ‘Ziggy’ Stein (SA), Stanley Medicks (Kenya), Aharoni Landman (Sabra Platoon Officer) and Fritz Bornstein (UK)

1948 heroes re-create history
Magen David rifle photo re-enacted.

Back: Joe Leibovitz, Maurice Ostroff, Shmuel Amid and Moshe Amiram.
Centre: Monty Bixen, David ‘Migal’ Teperson, Stanley Sober, Avi Grant and Hymie Josman.
Front: Smoky Simon, Stanley Medicks and Hymie Goldblatt.

The black and white ‘then’ photograph was taken during Israel’s War of Independence, and shows Machal volunteers (volunteers from abroad) in the 72nd Command Battalion taking part in Operation Hiram in October 1948.

The second ‘now’ photograph was taken this year, when these brave heroes were honoured in a special exhibition entitled By Land, by Air and by Sea in Israel Stanley Medicks (kneeling in both photographs) instigated the exhibition, which was recently opened with guests- of-honour Chairman of the Knesset Mr. Reuven Rivlin, and Brigadier-General Eli Shermeister, Chief Education Officer of the Israel Defense Forces.

Speeches were made by the guests- of-honour and also by Smoky Simon, Chairman of World Machal (front row left in the ‘now’ photograph), and Stanley Medicks, Chairman of British and Scandinavian Machal (kneeling front row in the ‘then’ and ‘now’ photograph). The exhibition, which will have a permanent place in the Diaspora Museum, tells the remarkable story of these volunteers, who were instrumental in helping Israel win that crucial war — a war that the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said would “determine whether Israel would be or not be a Jewish State”

A unique contribution

The word Machal is a Hebrew acronym for ‘Mitnadvei Chutz L’Aretz’, meaning ‘Volunteers from Abroad’. The Machalniks were mainly veterans of World War II. As the war clouds were gathering over Palestine, these veterans felt an obligation to support their brethren in Israel. More than 4500 volunteers came from 58 countries — men and women, Jews and non-Jews.

“Volunteering to fight in the War of Independence was the most important aspect of my life,” says 86-year-old Stanley who came from Kenya, who went to Israel with 800 volunteers from South Africa.
Israel is truly indebted to these Machalniks. As the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said, “You came to us when we needed you most. You gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well. The people of Israel and the State of Israel will always cherish this unique contribution made by you — the volunteers of Machal”. Prime Minister Ben Gurion said “The Machal Forces were the Diaspora’s most important contribution to the survival of the State of Israel”.

In 1993, Stanley Medicks, coordinator of the British and European Machal Association, together with fellow Machal comrades, raised the funds for a memorial to be built in Israel to the 123 Machal men and women who gave their lives. It stands in the Yitzhak Rabin Park. “We are proud to have done what we did at the time of Israel’s desperate need,” he said.