I was aware of the many South Africans who volunteered for Machal (Volunteers from Abroad, מתנדבי חוץ לארץ) and helped Israel in the War of Independence. I was aware that despite South Africa’s small Jewish population, they remarkably constituted around 20% of the total volunteers that helped Israel during this difficult period. Although I consider myself well read in Israeli history, I was unaware of how pivotal a role they – as well as the other Machal volunteers – played in ensuring Israel would get past 1948 and become the country she is today. Considering how so few know of this story, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to learn about the subject from the mouths of those who experienced it first hand.
For more on the '804,' click here for my latest piece in the Times of Israel.