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MACHAL [Mitnadvei Hutz LaAretz] and Aliyah Bet Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-501

Scope and Content Note

This collection is unique in that it deals specifically with the experience of MACHAL and Aliyah Bet volunteers from Canada and the United States and those that eventually settled in the United States but were born elsewhere. The collection consists of files on 500 volunteers, over 2000 original and reproduction photographs, numerous audio-visual material, books, manuscripts, and memoirs.

Series I: AVI Officials and MACHAL/AVI General, documents the work of the organizational officers of the American Veterans for Israel. The series has been divided into five subseries according to office and record type. The first two subseries contain the clippings, correspondence, and records of the presidents and vice-presidents of AVI. Sub-Series 3, contains the correspondence of Michel Finegood, a Canadian MACHAL and Aliyah Bet recruiter as he collected and conducted research into the stories of MACHAL and Aliyah Bet volunteers. Sub-Series 4, documents the general files of MACHAL and AVI, of note are the newsletters sent out to members and the indexes of those newsletters. Sub-Series 5: Miscellaneous Papers, contains a variety of documents from affiliated sources that deal with issues surrounding the Aliyah Bet and the establishment of the state of Israel. The material in the folder titled Kfar Blum Archives is comprised of copies of material found in their archives relating to volunteers who served during the war either at the kibbutz or in the army. This material was given to Ralph Lowenstein but he was unable to further research the names and events identified. The material related to the Weiss Brothers documents the assistance given by Ralph Lowenstein to Craig and Jeffrey Weiss, authors of I am My Brother’s Keeper, and includes their research and correspondence.

In Series II: MACHAL, chronicles the lives of North American MACHAL members and their activities in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. The sub-series have been created topically and from nation of origin of the volunteers. The material in the series includes questionnaires, correspondence, interview transcripts, clippings, and some photographs.

Series III: Aliyah Bet, is comprised of information from and about the volunteers of the Aliyah Bet from the United States and Canada. It contains questionnaires, correspondence, interview transcripts, clippings, and some photographs. The third subseries documents the various ships and their crew that were used in the illegal transport of volunteers and others to Israel.

In Series IV: Volunteers other than Aliyah Bet or MACHAL, documents the lives volunteers in organizations or groups outside MACHAL or Aliyah Bet, who volunteered and helped Israel before and after the war, by coming to Israel or by acquiring materials for Israel during the war.

The efforts of MACHAL and Aliyah Bet veterans and volunteers to tell there story through books and memoirs can be found in Series V: Books and Memoirs. While Series VI: Audiovisual Material, includes interviews on audiocassettes of volunteers and various video recordings of reunions, television shows, theatrical performances documenting the MACHAL and Aliyah Bet experience.

Finally, Series VII: Photographs, consists of images, some original, but many reproductions, of MACHAL and Aliyah Bet volunteers from the time they volunteered through the various reunions and memorials given for their comrades.

Dates

  • undated, 1930-2010

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility. For more information, contact:

American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

email:  reference@ajhs.org

Historical Note

The establishment of the Jewish state of Israel in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-49 happened with the assistance of the MACHAL, war veterans from around the world giving military assistance, and Aliyah Bet, the illegal immigration of thousands of Jewish refugees from Europe to Israel. These organizations provided the necessary logistical and personnel support to win the war.

The MACHAL, the acronym for “mitnadvei hutz laAretz” or "volunteers from abroad", consisted of about 3500 men and women from over 40 countries from a variety of social and religious backgrounds who volunteered to fight for Israel in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Many of these volunteers came from Canada and the United States and provided service in all aspects of military operations; the majority however, applied their experience in the air. The American and Canadian contingent of MACHAL formed the core of the Israeli Air Force. These volunteers not only brought their fighting and technical experience and expertise to pilot and maintain the aircraft, but also their connections to suppliers of planes, parts, munitions. The volunteers also trained others to pilot and maintain the aircraft essential to keeping the Air Force aloft. Other volunteers from Canada and the United States applied assisted in other areas, such as, artillery, intelligence gathering, logistics, medicine, naval operations, tactical planning, and numerous other military specialties gained from their experiences in World War II; experiences that the Palestinian Jews did not have.

Prior to and during the war, many volunteers also assisted Israel by serving as crew on the many transport ships that brought Jewish refugees out of Europe against the British restrictions on immigration to Palestine. These illegal transports of immigrants, known as the Aliyah Bet were often conducted in hazardous conditions and threats from British patrols.

This collection was assembled under the auspices of MACHAL volunteer and scholar Ralph Lowenstein. Lowenstein, a member of the American Veterans of Israel (AVI), served in the 79th Armored Battalion of the 7th Brigade, Israeli Army from August to December of 1948. While serving as the dean of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications he realized that many of the volunteers with whom he had served would die and little to no effort had been made to gather information about their backgrounds and service in the cause of Israel. Using mailing lists from AVI he started to collect information on some 400 volunteers with a 52 question survey to the veterans of Aliyah Bet, specifically those people who served on the 12 American owned ships, and MACHAL and the roughly 100 volunteers who served in both. The volunteers responded to his questionnaire and also sent copies of memoirs, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, various audio-visual materials, and other documents. Ralph Lowenstein, with the help of Samuel Klausner, Simon Spiegelman, David Kaplan, Elihu Bergman, Jason Fenton, David Hanovice, Eddy Kaplansky, and Yael Herbsman produced this collection. In 2005, with donations from many contributors, Lowenstein established a museum and website dedicated to the volunteers.

Sources:

The Aliyah Bet and MACHAL Virtual Museum http://israelvets.com/story_aliyahbet_machal.html.

Markovitzky, Yaacov. MACHAL: Overseas Volunteers in Israel's War of Independence. Tel Aviv: Ministry of Education, Israel Information Center, Publication Service, 2007. Found at http://www.mahal-idf-volunteers.org/about/Machal.pdf.

Extent

22.25 Linear Feet

Abstract

The MACHAL, the acronym for “mitnadvei hutz laAretz” ("Volunteers from Abroad"), consisted of about 3500 men and women from over 40 countries from a variety of social and religious backgrounds who volunteered to fight for the establishment of Israel. This collection is unique in that it deals specifically with the experience of MACHAL and Aliyah Bet volunteers from Canada and the United States and others living in the United States. The collections consists of files on 500 volunteers, over 2000 original and reproduction photographs, numerous audio-visual material, books, manuscripts, and memoirs.

Digitization Note

Box 27 Folder 11 and Box 31 Folders 4 and 16 have been digitized as part of an ongoing digitization-on-demand program at the Center for Jewish History.

Related Material

In addition to the numerous books and memoirs written by the MACHAL and Aliyah Bet volunteers whose works can be found in this collection. Some noteworthy websites dedicated to MACHAL and Aliyah Bet are:



Ralph Lowenstein's MACHAL and Aliyah Bet Virtual Museum found at http://www.israelvets.com/.

And the organization website of World MACHAL found at http://www.machal.org.il/.

Creator

Title
Guide to the MACHAL [Mitnadvei Hutz LaAretz] and Aliyah Bet Records, undated, 1930-2010 I-501
Status
In Progress
Author
Finding Aid by Michael D. Montalbano
Date
© 2010
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation
Edition statement
[This version was derived from MACHAL.xml]

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States