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Avi Heiligman

The Unlikely Heroes of Machal


e have discussed in past ated the game anti-monopoly. ever, there were some English soldiers dogfight with an IAF fighter. It was latarticles the heroes of the Aboard a transport plane from who saw through bigotry that most er learned that the Spitfire wasn’t Arab Israeli War of Independence Rome to Tel Aviv were two nuns from Brits had and wanted to help the Israe- but British. However, Dawson wasn’t in 1948, especially those who came South Africa. Sisters Audrey Benedict lis fight for their country. (On the other disciplined. from abroad to help with the fighting. In 1947, he befriended a captured These brave men and women joined Haganah fighter named Elihau Shapiro the ranks of the Palmach and IDF in and told him of his desire to defect to Slade went through the war wearing a cross, newly created Machal units. Machal the Haganah. Shapiro arranged everystands for Misnadvei Chutz L’Aretz thing and Dawson rode out of camp a Navajo charm necklace, and a mezuzah or volunteers from outside the land. one day and didn’t return. He wasn’t Most of these people gained combat the only one to leave the British Army and claimed that one of the three experience during World War II (1939and join the IDF’s 8th Armored Briprotected him from harm. 1945) and were eager to help their gade. Paddy Flanagan served with brothers keep their land. They were a Dawson and had this to say about his few, however, that had more peculiar experience: “We had three tanks – two reasons and even more unbelievable Cromwells and a Sherman. [One of stories as to why they were fighting for and Marie Roux were answering a call hand, many British officers stayed to them was “borrowed” from the Brits Israel. The stories that follow are of from a South African doctor in Israel help the Arabs.) Johnny Dawson was by Dawson.] We scrounged together men and women that despite not being for more nurses. They, however, did one of these soldiers. He was disgust- from scrap taken from the desert, courJewish, decided to help the Jewish not know their destination and were ed with the British policy against the tesy of the campaign during World War nation fight for their country. surprised to hear it over the II. That was it.  We were A good example of an unlikely loudspeaker on the plane. the only tanks Israel had.  machalnik was Jesse “Tex” Slade. He When they got to Israel, When I think back to the was a Navajo Native American who Benedict was detained beodds stacked against us, joined the 4th Troop Volunteer. He cause she wasn’t Jewish those Arabs were armed went through the war wearing a cross, (Roux wasn’t either) and to the teeth, it was amaza Navajo charm necklace and a mezu- didn’t have the right paing we survived, let alone zah and claimed that one of the three pers. They were released won!” Sergeant Desmond protected him from harm. He fought when an official who was Rutledge also served with through the war and didn’t receive a expecting their arrival Dawson and Flanagan and single scratch or wound and was quot- came to their rescue and later changed his name to ed as saying, “You’all just can’t be too sent them in an ambulance Zvi Rimer. careful with all them bombs and bul- to Bat Galim Hospital in The 8th Brigade was a lets flyin’ around.” After the war, he Haifa. They worked on magnet for several Machal operated a cattle ranch in the Negev. all types of patients from soldiers especially those Ralph Anspach served as a gunner newborns to wounded solwho defected from the in the 4th Troop and remembered Tex diers. Then they moved British Army. Machal solSlade. According to Anspach, Slade to the Rambam Hospital diers flocked from around A group of Machal volunteers. The two on the right aren’t Jewish. had served in the American Army where they worked for the world to join the newly during World War II a plastic created IDF and many of and was greeted with surgeon. After the war, Jews and after the war converted to Ju- these served with distinction. For men prejudice by most of Benedict left Israel, daism and married a Jewish girl. like Dawson and Slade and women the officers. The only married and moved Dawson joined the British Army like Benedict and Roux, even though person to give him to South Africa. Roux with the intent to fight Nazi enemies they weren’t Jewish, it was more than proper respect was a moved to New York but instead was sent to fight against its just another battle; it was to help Israel Jewish officer named but came back to Is- victims. He was given the hazardous in her most desperate hour. rael during the Sinai job of riding his motorcycle through Captain Grossman Campaign of 1956 and an area that was active with both Arab and being that this the Six Day War of and Haganah fighters. He was shot at was the only positive 1967 to help with the by both sides but quickly found out Avi Heiligman is a weekly contributor to part of his army experience, he decided purchasing of needed where the Jews were and refused to fire The Jewish Home. He welcomes your comto look into the Jewmedical supplies. at them like some of his “comrades” ments and suggestions.for future columns ish nation. This was Before Israel be- were doing. He later was given the and can be reached at aviheiligman@ reasoning for joining came a country, it was unhappy task of checking immigrants Jesse Tex Slade the Palmach during under British control. coming on ships from Europe and felt the War of IndepenThere was no love lost their pain as the British government dence. Anspach became famous later when the Brits left after their mandate treated them roughly. His main job on when, as an economics professor at was over because the two sides had was as a gunner and once he shot down San Francisco State University, he cre- many ideological differences. How- a Spitfire fighter aircraft that was in a

T h e J e w i s h H o m e n n o v e m b e r 1 5 , 2012

Forgotten Heroes


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