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They helped every man his neighbour;
And every one said to his brother: “Be of good courage.”
- Isaiah 41:6

(Inscription on the Machal Memorial at Sha’ar Hagai, Jerusalem)

Machal is the Hebrew acronym for Mitnadvei Chutz L'Aretz: translation - Volunteers from Outside Israel.
It should be known and remembered that between 1947 and 1948 some 4,000 Machalniks –  Volunteers from Outside Israel, came in small leaky boats and old beat-up planes and fought alongside Israel's finest, first in the Palmach, Irgun, and Haganah and after the State was declared, in the IDF. All told, Volunteers, both Jews and non-Jews, men and women, came from some 40 or so different countries to support the new Jewish State in her hour of greatest need.

Most of the Western and English-speaking Volunteers – or "Anglo Saxim" as they were termed by the Israelis – had fought in World War II and were eager to put their combat experience into action to help defend the brand-new Jewish State. These Volunteers formed the core of the new Israel Air Force, providing battle-hardened combat pilots for the first Fighter and Bomber Wings. And it was mainly English-speaking pilots and aircrews that created the Air Transport Command that ferried fighter planes and desperately needed weapons from an air base near Prague to Tel Nof in Israel. And even though it irritated some of the Israel Air Force top brass at the time, the operational language of the IAF throughout the War of Independence was, by necessity, English!

The facts are that the first naval commanders, the first radar technicians, the first heavy artillery gunners, the first tank and antitank commanders, the first senior infantry commanders, the first fighter and bomber pilots, the first MASH doctors and surgeons were mostly Machal Volunteers. And Machalniks manned the 'Aliyah Bet' ships that brought almost 32,000 Holocaust survivors to Mandatory Palestine under the noses of the British and the UN.

This would be Israel's costliest war, and the toll was also heavy for Machal. 122 Machalniks, including 4 women, were killed in action with casualties particularly high among the English-speaking Machal pilots. And as noted by the late Yitzhak Rabin (z'l) at the dedication of the Machal Memorial at Sha'ar Hagai in the Jerusalem hills in memory of those who fell:

After serving Israel in her hour of greatest need, most of the Volunteers returned to their home countries, but some hundreds stayed or returned soon after and decided to make Israel their home. Now their children and grandchildren serve in the IDF and help to keep Israel safe from her many enemies:


    Dr. Jason Fenton was born in England and educated at The Perse School Cambridge; later he attended UCLA, majoring in French literature and Jewish history. Dr. Fenton, now a college professor, writes and lectures on Middle East issues and history and speaks often about Machal’s important contribution to Israel’s victory in the War of Independence.

    In 1948, while still in school in England, he volunteered to fight for Israel. He served in an antitank unit that saw action in all major operations of the war. At 16, he was, by all accounts, the youngest Machalnik (Volunteer from Outside Israel) to serve in a combat unit. His unit, the 4th Troop, was unique and operated as an independent and democratic force whose members wore no insignia of rank, very much in the tradition of the Palmach. 

    This book began as a memoir about his unit’s participation in the War, but it grew to cover the entire War and includes inspiring and amazing stories of many of the Volunteers – men and women, from many countries and many faiths, who left the safety of home and family to put their lives on the line for a country they had never seen and whose language they did not speak. Sadly, 122 of these Volunteers gave their lives fighting in Israel’s War of Independence.

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