The Machal

The MachalYou came to us when we needed you the most, during those dark and uncertain days in our War of Independence. The people of Israel, the State of Israel, will never forget it.  We will ever cherish this unique contribution made by you, the volunteers of the MACHAL.” ~ The Honorable Yitzhak Rabin

MACHAL is an acronym for “mitnadvei hutz laAretz.” It is rendered in English as “volunteers from abroad.” The volunteer force was a rag-tag assemblage of 3,500 men and women from more than 40 countries, many of whom were already war weary from fighting in Europe and the Pacific just a few years earlier. They came to Israel as friends of Zion and lovers of freedom, with a passion for reestablishing a home for the Jewish people in the place that had always been their home.

They came to Israel because they were needed. They came because they believed G-d. They came because of their love for the Jewish people. They came because they knew there might be no Israel if they did not.

What was a land of milk and honey in the days of Moses and Joshua, was now a barren wilderness where only a few, scattered settlements eked out an existence. This, now deserted and forsaken land, was what the world had to offer the Jewish people who had managed to survive the single, most outrageous massacre in human history. All that was left of the Jews had begun to return to all that was left of their homeland.

Yet, the peoples who were soon to be their neighbors had vowed to drive the Jewish people into the sea. They began their attempt on the day that Israel was declared a nation. It was, in effect, an Arab attempt to finish what Hitler had started.

The untold story is that those young warriors actually risked losing their American and Canadian citizenship as well as their lives to defend other people’s families and a land they had never seen. They served as an eternal link between the Jews of Israel and the Jews of the United States and Canada. In the words of one Israeli colonel, the intrinsic value of the MACHAL was that “we Israelis knew we were not alone.” Forty of those Americans and Canadians heroically gave their lives for Israeli independence.

Every Jewish leader since 1948 has recognized the contribution of the men and women who were willing to risk everything so that the Jewish people could once again have something to call their own. Whether or not the MACHAL made all the difference in the Israeli War for Independence, we may never know. But we do know that they made a difference.

Press Release

2015 Opening of The Friends of Zion Heritage Center
Will Pay Homage to Impassioned Supporters of Israel

The Friends of Zion Heritage Center is set to open in early 2015 as a high-tech homage to the contributions of courageous people who have supported the State of Israel in remarkable ways.

Jerusalem, Israel – October 10, 2014 - Located in the heart of Jerusalem the New Year will bring the opening of a state-of-the art museum that heralds the historical contributions of those who support the State of Israel.  Designed to bring attention to the devoted that have showed immense courage that, in some cases, cost them their lives the museum is an unmatched high-tech experience. Eliciting ongoing support for the Jewish people the museum’s exhibits also bring attention to the issues that face the much debated region.

Extraordinary exhibits at The Friends of Zion Heritage Center include animatronic displays and holograms that allow viewers to meet and hear some of the most important figures in history.  Integrating the visitor’s experience in an innovative way, every visitor can record their own stories.  Using technology similar to what is used at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, New York the museum offers a way for Jewish visitors to record how Christian believers have affected their lives positively.

Onward through The Friends of Zion Heritage Center, sometimes referred to as the Mike Evans Museum, myriad brave stories unfold.  Heroes are highlighted such as President Harry Truman as well as Oskar Schindler for his widely-recognized “Schindler’s List”.  Also recognized in the museum is the courageous ten Boom family who also hid Jews during the Holocaust atrocities.

Visitors will also ride the Time Machine Elevator and meet ancient biblical patriarchs. They will make their way through the history of Israel and watch the Roman destruction of the Temple and Holy City.  Exhibits also include Visionaries of the Promise and Valley of Dry Bones as well as the Promise Theater whereby visitors will be met with a visual and audible message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau.  This exhibit is a heartwarming story of the Prime Minister’s brother who, at the encouragement of his godfather, joined Israel’s military for which he ultimately gave his life.

About The Friends of Zion Heritage Center:

The contributions of those who have supported the existence of the State of Israel.  Celebrating the recent history of numerous Christians, politicians and military leaders in favor of the influential region the high-tech museum is set to open early 2015.

Ilan Scolnik
VP Sales and Marketing Friends of Zion Heritage Center
20 Yosef Rivlin Street
Nahalat Shiv’a
Jerusalem 94240
97225003327 (Israel)
The Friends of Zion Heritage Center is located at:
20 Yosef Rivlin Street
Nahalat Shiv’a
Jerusalem 94240
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Chinue Sempo Sugihara: Righteous Among the Nations

Chinue Sempo Sugihara: Righteous Among the NationsHis acts of human kindness that emanated from a strong moral compass were virtually unknown to the world at large for nearly 30 years. It was in 1968 that Joshua Nishri, one of the 6,000 “Sugihara Survivors” was able to locate Chinue Sempo Sugihara in Japan. It was only then that Sugihara became aware of the scope of the impact that had been achieved as a result of his actions, the actions of a man with a kind and humble heart who was determined always to do right. Because of his righteous acts, he is counted today as a Hero of Japan and as Righteous among the Nations.

It was only after his death in 1986 that his own country became aware of his heroic efforts; efforts that the government of Japan did not appreciate at the time they were taken.

Sugihara entered the service of the Japanese diplomatic corps in 1919. In 1939, just one year after being posted at Helsinki, Finland, he was reassigned to open a consulate in Lithuania. He was almost immediately confronted with a crisis. Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland displaced a massive wave of Jewish families seeking a safe haven in the only direction available to them – to the east. To the east meant travelling through Russia, but Russia would not allow the Jews to travel across the country without a valid transit visa.

In July 1940 Sugihara awoke one morning to the sounds of a crowd of several hundred Jews outside the consulate, pleading to secure Japanese transit visas.

Three times Sugihara appealed to the Japanese government to secure authorization to issue the necessary visas. His request was denied each time.

Realizing that the volume of visas required would be great and, most likely expecting to be denied permission to issue them, Sugihara began issuing them without authorization. He managed to hand write and stamp some 300 visas per day, a task that would not allow him to take breaks for meals and that left his hands painfully stiff at the end of the day. He continued this practice through the end of August, when he was ordered to leave his post.

Realizing the desperate need for the Jewish people to escape Hitler’s onslaught, he continued writing visas in the car on the way to the train station and on the platform while waiting for the train. Even after boarding the train, he wrote more visas, tossing them out of the window until the train began to depart. Then, as the train was leaving, he tossed the stamp that made the visas official into the crowd so the Jewish people could actually authenticate their own visas.

Following the war, Sugihara and his family were imprisoned by the Russians in an internment camp in Rumania. When released, he returned home to find that he had been dismissed by the Japanese Foreign Ministry. His ignominy forced him into a life of abject poverty, although he eventually worked his way out of it by taking a job in Moscow that allowed him to see his family in Japan only twice a year. Because he saw no reason to glory in what he had done, he became just another obscure person. Yet, the last words he heard from the Jews on the railway platform in Lithuania rang in his ears: “We will never forget you!”

They remained true to their word. He had not realized that he had helped 6,000 Jews to escape. Nor did he realize that those people never forgot him. After years of searching, Nishri was able to locate him, sharing with him the news of the numbers he had saved. Sugihara visited Israel in for the first time in 1969. He was greeted by the Israeli Minister of Religion, Zerach Warheftig, another of the Sugihara Survivors.

Sugihara was honored as Righteous Among the Nations in 1985, one year before his death. Even with this great honor, his story remained unknown in Japan – until his funeral was attended by an unusually large delegation of Jews from around the world. This simple, humble, honorable man would probably be embarrassed to know that today there are monuments erected in his honor in Kaunus, Lithuania, the location of his consulate, and in Yaotsu, Japan, the town where he was born.

He was just a man who wanted to do the right thing. His commitment to righteousness was ordinary to him, but heroic in the eyes of the Jewish people and the world.

Yossi Peled, Zionist Hero & Board of Trustees Chairman

Yossi Peled, Zionist Hero & Board of Trustees ChairmanFriends of Zion is honored to have Yossi Peled, a hero of Zionism, as the Chairman of our Board of Trustees.

Born in Belgium in 1941, Josef Mendelvich was one of the millions of Jews who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Nazis were intent on implementing Hitler’s Final Solution. Yossi survived the war in the care of a Christian family. Following the war he made Aliyah to the new nation of Israel with his mother. His father had perished at Auschwitz. But, not only did he come to Israel, he became as much of Israel as anyone could hope to be, helping to share the country into what it is today.

Yossi spent 30 years in the IDF, including being a company commander in the Six-Day War, a battalion commander during the War of Attrition, a brigade commander in the Yom Kippur War and, later, a division commander in the Sinai. He rose to the position of Aluf – the second highest rank in the IDF, akin to Major General – of the Northern Command, a position subsequently held by current IDF chief, Benny Gantz.

While it is tempting to speak of life after retirement from the military, Yossi has never really retired. He has just continued to keep on working for the success of the nation of Israel and the Zionist cause. Following stints as CEO of Tadiran Telecom and the Second Israel Broadcasting Authority, Yossi decided to enter politics as a member of the Likud party, becoming Minister without Portfolio from 2009 through March 2013. Most recently, he has been Chairman of the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline. He has spent much of his professional and personal time providing assistance to Holocaust survivors living in Israel.

Yossi Peled is a fine representative of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. We are proud to have him represent the Friends of Zion.

Miep Gies: Righteous Among the Nations

Miep Gies: Righteous Among the NationsIf not for the list of the Righteous among the Nations, the world might have long forgotten Miep Gies and her husband, Jan, and she might have passed away into obscurity when she died on January 11, 2010, a month shy of her 101st birthday. But, as is the case with so many more, we must keep her memory alive so that “never again” will the events she experienced recur.

On her 100th birthday she said, “I am one hundred years old now. That is an admirable age, and I have even reached it in fairly good health. So then, it’s fair to say ‘You’ve been fortunate,’ and being fortunate seems to be the red thread running through my life.”

At an earlier date she declared that she stood, “at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did or more – much more – during those dark and terrible times years ago. But, always, like yesterday in the hearts of those of us who bear witness, never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened then.”

Miep was Austrian by birth. At the age of eleven, Herminie Santrouschitz was taken-in temporarily by a family in the Netherlands as part of a program to help the Austrian people recover from the destruction of World War I. As it turned out, it was decided, the situation being what it was, that Herminie – or Miep, as she was called in Holland – should remain in the Dutch family’s care. That turned out to be both fortuitous and sufferable.

She was fortunate to meet her future husband, Jan Gies, at work before she was laid off and took another job at the Opetka Company in Amsterdam. She and Jan became good friends with the owner of the company and his family. Over a short period of time, things turned ugly again in Europe as the Nazi regime in Germany set out to conquer the world and annihilate the Jews. Miep was fortunate to be living in Amsterdam rather than in her homeland of Austria. It seemed like the Netherland’s neutrality would keep it safe from Hitler’s madness.

As it turned out, that was only an illusion. Germany stormed the Netherlands and began to implement Hitler’s Final Solution there, just as it had elsewhere. Some Jews fled the continent. Others, like Miep’s boss, hid. Miep and Jan brought food and other necessities to his family to provide for their sustenance whilst in hiding. She risked her life, using her lunch break to make her daily deliveries. She knew that, should they be found or she be caught, they would all be subject to the same fate. Unfortunately, the family was eventually found and sent to their miserable fate. Only the father was saved alive. As for Miep and Jan, no one was the wiser.

After the war, Miep said that, “I am not a hero. More than twenty thousand Dutch people helped to hide Jews and others in need of hiding during those years. I willingly did what I could to help. My husband did as well. It was not enough.” Any righteous person would do the same.

Her kindness extended beyond helping her boss’ family. After the family had been taken, she visited the place where they had been hiding to gather up their personal effects and deliver them to her boss, Otto Frank. Among those belongings were the diaries of Otto’s daughter, Anne, which would eventually tell a small part of the story of the persecution of the Jews during World War II. Little did Miep know, when she handed those diaries to her boss, how many lives would be changed by a simple act of kindness.

All Miep knew was that, “It was not enough.”