A lesser-known tourist destination, the Ayalon Institute is a fascinating piece of pre-state history for any Jewish heritage, bar/bat mitzvah or family tours of Israel. Located on Kibbutzim Hill in the town of Rehovot, this site was once a clandestine bullet factory that operated of the nearby British soldiers.
Secret Production of Ammunition
The Ayalon Institute’s history begins with the Haganah—a partisan military group that operated in Palestine during the time of the British Mandate, beginning in the 1920s until the Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence. The Haganah was the core of what later became today’s Israel Defense Forces. While the Haganah, unlike other, more restricted military factions, operated with the general consent of the British authorities in Palestine, many of its actions and plans were still kept secret from the British.
In 1945, members of the Haganah foresaw the end of the British rule over Palestine and with it, the de facto peace between the Jewish and Arab citizens of Palestine. Concerned about protecting Jewish towns and farming communities from Arab invasion, members of the Haganah began the construction of a secret, underground ammunition plant that would help the Jewish citizens protect themselves against their Arab neighbors.
The clandestine construction lasted a mere three weeks, creating a bullet factory 25 feet underneath a kibbutz bakery. A concealed entrance under one of the 10-ton bakery stoves covered a staircase down to the factory, where 50 Haganah members studiously produced more than two million bullets in its three years of operation (1945-1948). At the height of its operation, the factory manufactured 40,000 bullets a day, a number that could have matched any large-scale factory in Europe or America at the time.
Visiting the Ayalon Institute Factory
Climb down the once-hidden stairs and visit the work area where the heavy machinery was situated. Catch the movie screening after you’re done walking about the grounds. The movie provides a comprehensive look at the factory’s operation and production line and tells yet another interesting story of how the Haganah managed to obtain a license for its raw materials, such as copper and zinc, from the unsuspecting British authorities.
Please note that you must call ahead and make reservations to visit the institute, as entrance into the museum is only permitted via a guided tour.
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