Machal – Volunteers for Israel

I never really knew my great grandfather, he died about two months after I was born.  He was 28 years old when the State of Israel was founded, and as a young healthy man he was called upon to fight for the new state and protect it from the five Arab armies that invaded it.

It was a difficult war, and at times, especially in the beginning, it looked like Israel would not make it.

More than 4,000 volunteers, Jewish and non Jewish, from all over the world, came to Israel to help the new Jewish state fight for its survival. Their assistance proved crucial, these volunteers, all of whom had combat experience from the Second World War, were able to turn the Jewish underground into a proper army, capable of defeating enemies much larger and better equipped.

One of the volunteers that great grandfather Avraham met was Ben Dunkelman from Toronto. Ben had served in the Canadian army, and had been on the second wave of soldiers who stormed Juno Beach on D-day in June 1944. Standing on the side when Israel’s existence was threatened was not an option for Ben, so he came to join the Jewish army in April 1948. He helped find an alternate road to Jerusalem, thus lifting the siege of Jerusalem and was instrumental in training the IDF in the use tanks and mortars. Avraham used to say that Ben was a really great looking guy and all the girls wanted him. Shortly after the war he married an Israeli woman named Yael and then returned to Toronto.

The program that bought them here was called Machal. The tradition of Machal continues, with volunteers from around the world still coming to Israel to enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces.

If you or your family have volunteered or served in the IDF then please send us photos or stories from your service. ‘Like’ our Facebook page and then upload the photos or post your stories.

Three more links:

Friend a Soldier

Israeli Soldier’s Stories

World Machal



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