SOUTH AFRICAN VOLUNTEERS (MACHALNIKS) IN ISRAEL’S WAR OF BIRTH 1948
PRESENTED BY MARTIN LEVIT AND DAVID SOLLY SANDLER
Two very knowledgeable presenters, Martin Levit and David Solly Sandler, combined forces to present a highly informative talk to the JHGS-WA on Sunday 30th October, at the Noranda Chabad Synagogue (NSHC) in Noranda.
Martin introduced the presentation, explaining the immediate historical background, in particular the aftermath of the Holocaust and British policy of turning back boatloads of Jewish refugees attempting to land in Palestine.
Two videos on the subject were shown, one of which included part of a speech given by Yitzhak Rabin. Footage of the veteran Machalnics remembering their experiences in 1947 – 8 was also shown.
In 1947-48, Jewish organisations put out requests for Jewish ex-servicemen and women to come to the fledgling state and fight to defend it. Approximately 3,500 volunteers came from many countries. Of these 810 were from South Africa, which was the largest contingent of all, per capita. Martin discussed the significant roles of certain individual volunteers, particularly airmen such as Harry ‘Smoky’ Simon, as well as Vidal Sassoon, a British volunteer who was not a pilot, who was to become a hairdresser to the rich and famous in London.
Other names mentioned were Butch Ben Yok (Milton Butch Bottger), Phil Kemp, and Sister Ray Brunton, a very dedicated nurse who delivered the first Jewish child to be born in Beer Sheba in over 2000 years!
David Solly Sandler also had many interesting points to make. Volunteer air crew underwent training at a secret base in Germiston, to which the South African government turned a blind eye. Ben Gurion himself praised the significant role of South African trained pilots in the war of independence. This was despite the British trying to prevent aircraft being sent to Israel for the defence of the country.
David gave details of many of the volunteers, including Eli Zagoria who more recently lived in Perth. David said a number of volunteers were from the Arcadia Jewish Orphanage in Johannesburg, about which he has done a considerable amount of research and published his work.
The event was well attended and the number of questions asked indicated that the topic roused the interest of the audience, many of whom originated in South Africa.
The story of the South African volunteers (Machalniks) is told in the book ‘South Africa’s 800’ which can be obtained from David Solly Sandler on firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jonathan Wolf
30 November 2016
EAST PERTH JEWISH MEMORIAL CEMETERY REDEDICATION
DECEMBER 10TH, 2017
Please find attached the link to the National Trust for the video of the re-dedication of the east Perth Jewish Cemetary
(Copy and paste to web browser).