Photo of Jacky Cohen, a volunteer pilot from South Africa, 1948. Courtesy of World Machal

On the Ground, in the Air and at Sea 1948 - Volunteers from Abroad in Israel's War of Independence


Curator: Shira Friedman

Designer: Design Mill

Opened: June 2012

On display in the Core Exhibition, 3rd floor

This is the story of the visionary, brave and determined men and women of valor who responded to an immediate need and came from the ends of the earth to aid the fledgling State of Israel.

This exhibition pays tribute to MACHAL (the Hebrew acronym for overseas volunteers), those who came when they were most needed during Israel’s struggle for survival and independence. The exhibition highlights their outstanding but little-known heroic and inspiring story.

MACHAL was comprised of over 4,500 volunteers–Jews and non-Jews, men and women–who put their lives on hold and came from 58 countries under exceedingly dangerous circumstances. Among other heroic exploits, they smuggled into the nascent state airplanes, arms, ammunition and thousands of Holocaust survivors. Most ‘Machalniks’ were World War II veterans whose invaluable military experience and expertise was urgently needed by the newly-formed Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Machalniks served with distinction in every branch of the IDF, often in key positions of command, and helped lay the foundation for the future IDF. They came with a strong sense of purpose and a shared feeling of pride and privilege in knowing they were helping to create and defend a Jewish homeland.

One hundred and twenty-three overseas volunteers lost their lives, including four women and eight non-Jews [click for the complete list of fallen volunteers].

After the war, most Machalniks returned to their home countries, but a significant number remained and settled in Israel. Currently, the spirit and tradition of MACHAL lives on with the yearly arrival of hundreds of young volunteers from all over the world to do military service for 14 months in MACHAL units in the IDF.

On display at the exhibition are fascinating artifacts and original works by artists Nachum Guttman, Ludwig Blum and Ardyn Halter, and aircraft models created by Asher Roth as well as clips from documentary films about MACHAL.

This exhibition is located inside the “Return” section on the 3rd floor of the Core Exhibition at Beit Hatfutsot. Placing the story of the MACHAL within the ongoing story of the Jewish people and the return to Zion stresses the significant contribution the MACHAL made to the founding of the State of Israel.

This exhibition is presented in cooperation with World MACHAL.

Curator: Shira Friedman

Designer: Design Mill

Opened: June 2012

On display in the Core Exhibition, 3rd floor