As part of BATgirl’s Bat Mitzvah year program, last Friday the extended BATfamily visited Machon Ayalon. Machon Ayalon is an almost unknown site among Israeli and foreign tourists, but since our visit I have decided to make it my new mission in life to put Machaon Ayalon on the map. This is not an easy task, as it was specifically designed to be OFF the map! Let me explain…
In the 1930-40’s in Palestine under the British mandate, Jews could be arrested and even executed for the crime of owning a weapon or ammunition. Let me remind you that from even before the 1929 Hebron Massacre where 67 Jews were murdered by their Arab neighbors, over the next 20 years and towards the British retreat from Palestine in May 1948, the Arabs of Palestine and neighboring countries were well armed and ready to attack the Jewish community. Despite an international arms embargo, it was absolutely necessary for the Jewish community to attain weapons to defend themselves, and to ensure that they would have enough resources to win the pending war for a national homeland.
Machon Ayalon was a clandestine ammunition factory, built daringly close to a British army camp – literally “under the nose” of the British. It was hastily built in 3 weeks to be 8 meters (25 feet) under the ground and it operated daily for 3 years. Above the ground, Machaon Ayalon appeared to be no more than a kibbutz. Of the 90 people who lived on the Kibbutz, 45 of them, (family and spouses of the factory workers who had not been enlisted for this highly dangerous mission) had no idea what was going on beneath their feet.
During our visit to Machon Ayalot, BATgirl and the extended BATfamily learnt the incredible story of Machon Ayalon. We learnt about the dangers and obstacles that the factory workers had to overcome to keep their invaluable mission going: How could they suppress the noise of the machinery? How could the worker get fresh air? How could the workers get sunlight so no one would suspect that they were not really working in the orchards? How could they keep the British soldiers at bay? How could they deliver their bullets to strategic locations all over Israel?
During the tour we learnt about….well we can call it “Chutzpah” or “a Yiddishe Kop” or even “brazen Israeli-ness” which calls to defy dangers and obstacles, and to come up with solution after creative solution. We were inspired by the determination never to allow ourselves to be defeated by the odds!
After our tour, we ate some cake that BATgirl and her sisters made, and Dod A, who is a reserve soldier in the Israeli army shared with BATgirl and the rest of us about the importance of serving the country that we live in.
David Ben Gurion said it as it is:
What an important stop in our BATmitzvah year program!