Story-ideas-1011172

Machalnik veterans reunited

  • CommunityVeterans
Two of the surviving Machal volunteers who left South Africa to volunteer in the 1948 War of Independence, met recently for an impromptu “reunion” at Jaffa (accommodation for the elderly) in Pretoria.
by JULIAN POKROY | Nov 02, 2017

The sprightly nonagenarians – Eli Isserow and Mendel Cohen – captivated their informal audience as they regaled them with their stories from that time.

Isserow was born on a farm between Ogies and Witbank, where he lived until 1936, before moving to Johannesburg.

In April 1948 he volunteered for Machal and was sent to the Ramat David Airfield where he initially served until he was sent to the Weizman Institute where, due to his skills as an artisan fitter and turner, he participated in the building of the first Israeli radar system. While this was ongoing, he also graduated as an engineer in the process.

He was commissioned and became a lieutenant and then served two years at Tel Nof (formally Akir) for a further three and half years of service, before returning  to South Africa.

Cohen  was born in 1925 in East London and went to school at Selbourne College. He spent one and a half years studying law at the University of Cape Town before he volunteered for Machal duty in 1948, temporarily abandoning his studies.

Cohen was part of a group of 12 to be included in a cell of Irgun.He served in the 72nd Regiment as a rifleman and subsequently in the 4th Battalion as a Spandau gunman.

He saw operational duty in the Western and Northern Gallilee and was part of the group entrenched at the Syrian boarder at Mount Hermon, where he recounted, they “nearly froze to death”.

Even after the war had been finalised and a truce declared there had still been continuing skirmishes. He moved to Kalkilya where they dug in approximately 100 metres from the Iraqi Brigade.

Cohen stayed on after the war on Kibbutz Atid in the Northern Gallilee and only returned to South Africa at the end of 1949, where he completed his law studies and practised law in Pretoria until his recent retirement.

And what’s left of their incredible experience is a truckload of memories and stories.

 

1 Comment

  1. 1 Rafi Plotkin 07 Nov
    Henry Katzew has written about those who served in Machal.It is a fascinating read which only reinforces my admiration for those who sacrificed so much for our State.

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