October 10th 2006 saw some 300 people descending on the Nachal Memorial Park in Pardes Hannah to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Machal-Nachal Volunteer Scheme. Nachal is the Hebrew acronym for “Fighting Pioneer Youth”, which had been founded in 1949 to provide a framework for young soldiers to establish, work on and defend new border kibbutzim. Tzemach Bloomberg who chaired the organizing committee for this reunion, expressed: “It upsets me that in modern Israel, people don’t know enough of the history of this wonderful country and the part played by the volunteers from abroad.”
Dr. Gilad Weingarten, former head of the Wingate Institute served in the same camp for basic training with some of the South Africans in 1956. “We Israelis grew up knowing at the age of 18 we would have to serve in the I.D.F., whereas these youngsters all volunteered, left their families and whatever they were doing- studying or work- and answered the call to come and help young Israel at war.
It is important for today’s grandchildren to know what their grandparents did for this country.” Smokie Simon, Head of World Machal, could not agree more and quoted Rabin. “You came to us when we needed you most…. You gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well.”
Capturing the behind-the –scenes activity of the period, Telfed Director,Sidney Shapiro, read a report from Sam Levin, who had been director of Telfed in 1956. The late Simie Weinstein who was Telfed’s liason officer for the “Nachalniks” was honoured for his devotion to his “Boys in Uniform”
Affectionately known as “The Daddy”, Diane Shaer records, “Simie would take goodies and the mail from home when visiting the soldiers at camp or in the field.”He always had a sympathetic ear and encouraged the guys to write home more often. “Doddie Gordon presented an exhibition of over 300 photographs, while Sorrel and Gidon Katz organized an audio-visual slide show.
The spouses and children of the deceased were presented with certificates, while the rest received theirs in envelopes together with a commemorative CD. and a booklet of stories put together by Les Amdur. Executive Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Zeev Bielski, no stranger to the South African community, broke out at every opportunity in his address with Afrikaans expressions.
The speeches were interspersed with lively songs from the 50s and 60s performed by the Tel-Aviv Dance Troupe.
Colonel Miki Edelstein, Commander of the Nachal Brigade, who had participated in the recent Lebanon war , told us about his very positive experiences with volunteers from abroad and mentioned that Machal is still very much alive. Many single soldiers from all over the world are today serving in Nachal. Telfed director, Sid Shapiro delivered a warm message. A reunion of ex members of Bnei Zion now living in Israel, showed their support by taking part in the celebrations.
The success of the event was entirely due to the initiative and hard work of Tzemach Bloombeg and his ad hoc committee comprising Doddie Gordon, Gidon Katz, Harry Shaer, Allie and Erika Dubb, Teddy Kaplan, Les Amdur, Arnie Friedman, Ivor Wolf, David, "Migdal" Tepperson and Harold Kaufman.
The following contributed to this article :
Maurice Ostroff at www.maurice-ostroff.tripod.com and Dave Kaplan from " TelFed ", organ of ex-South Africans in Israel.
Click here to see "Video Reunion 2006"