5 Hidden Gems to Visit in Israel
3. Palmach Museum
This museum in Tel Aviv honors those who fought for Israel's independence in its earliest days:
The Palmach was the elite striking force of the “Hagana” – the underground military organization of the Jewish community, its national institutions and the Zionist Movement prior to the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Palmach was founded in May 1941 to help the British defend the country (then Palestine) against the approaching German armies. In the fall of 1942, as the threat of invasion receded, the British authorities ordered the dismantling of the Palmach, which caused it to go underground.
It became a fully mobilized voluntary force consisting of young men and women (…) [who] were stationed in Kibbutzim, where they underwent military training but also worked on the farms for 14 days a month in order to support themselves.
Note that the Palmach symbol, above, shows two sheaves of wheat and a sword, symbolizing this balance between working the land and fighting for its survival.
Along with engaging in guerrilla warfare against the British (and later, the Arabs), the Palmach brought Holocaust survivors to Israel in boats like the famous "Exodus."
Following the U.N. decision of November 29, 1947 to partition Palestine, Arab armed gangs blocked the roads and besieged Jewish towns, including Jerusalem. At the time 2,200 Palmach fighters were the only force ready to engage in battle, though they were poorly armed. As the War of Independence unfolded, they operated all over the country, liberating Jerusalem and other besieged towns, conquering territories, opening roads and, with the newly organized “Hagana” troops, defeated the invading armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. They fought valiantly but suffered many casualties – over 1,168 dead and hundreds wounded.
Most of the Palmach’s notable attributes and warfare ethics were incorporated into the IDF, such as, a pioneering spirit, a tradition of volunteering and complete obedience to the Jewish legitimate authorities, (…) moral warfare codes, commando tactics, leadership in battle (the famous battle-cry of field commanders “Follow me”). For many consecutive years, most of the high-ranking commanders of the IDF, including 6 Chiefs of Staff and 40 generals, came from the ranks of the Palmach.
Because tours are guided, they must be booked ahead of time.
The 90 minute tour tells the story of the Palmach through a semi-fictional Band of Brothers-style movie, which plays out as you walk through exhibits that recreate Palmach camps and battlegrounds.
A fellow who took the tour with us, while not one of our party, was an elderly man with his much younger care-giver. The old guy sang Palmach songs and had lots to add about the exhibits. Unfortunately, I don't speak Hebrew so I missed getting a history lesson first hand.
Overall: Very inspirational and moving.