Ayalon Institute – Rehovot

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Background: The “Ayalon Institute” was the code name given by the Haganah (Jewish paramilitary group) for a clandestine underground munitions factory during the British Mandate, underneath Kibbutzim Hill, just north of what is now Rehovot. The “institute” was operated by a pioneer group (Hatzofim Aleph) beneath an ordinary, functioning kibbutz (whose members ignorant to the operation were known as “giraffes”) and created more than two million bullets in three years which would be used to fight during the war. It was the largest Jewish bullet factory at the time until the War of Independence in 1948, when all the equipment was moved to Tel Aviv (and no longer needed to be kept a secret). The Ayalon Institute became a National Historic Site in 1987 and made a museum.

Impressions: The Ayalon Institute is pretty impressive when you think of what actually happened. The members dug a 250 sq meter room four meters underground, whose entrances were covered by a bakery – to cover up the smell of gunpowder (underneath a giant oven), and a laundry machine – to cover up the noise (see photos). Inside were rows of machines used to cut and cast bullets, a small firing range to test, a tanning salon (to cover up the workers’ stories and keep them healthy), and alarms to alert the works if a giraffe or the British were coming. The bullets were smuggled out underneath large milk cartons and shipped to the Haganah. Any spark could have exploded the entire room, and seriously damaged the kibbutz in the process. During the tour you go down through the bakery and get to see the original machines and how they were operated. It’s crazy to think they spent years down there manufacturing bullets in such a small space in dangerous conditions, and that they never got caught.

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~ by jonathanmtsai on June 7, 2011.

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