A Marylander who has made it his mission to erect memorials around the U.S. and world honoring noteworthy Jews and their deeds erected a memorial in Israel last month to the more than 4,800 volunteers from 59 countries who assisted Israel during its 1947-49 War of Independence. Known as the Machal, the volunteers were mostly WWII vets who brought their military knowledge, experience and piloting skills to Israel’s nascent fighting forces.
Jerry Klinger of Derwood, Md., and Boynton Beach, Fla., founded the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation in 1999. Since then, he has erected more than 60 memorials honoring significant Jewish people, places and events in 29 states and five foreign countries, including three in Maryland. Dedicated on Dec. 17, adjacent to the Ammunition Hill National Memorial site in Jerusalem, the Machal memorial sculpture gives testament to the volunteers, including 1,200 Americans. Klinger’s nonprofit and the American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp. collaborated with the Jerusalem City Council on the project. The dedication included a ceremony at the Western Wall, a torch relay race including IDF units and a Chanukah candle lighting.
“[This] is a major recognition of the 4,900 volunteers who came to fight in the War of Independence and made the key difference to Israel’s very survival,” Klinger said. “Over 1,200 Americans volunteered, and tens of thousands, especially Baltimoreans, provided direct and material support to the effort. Despite the darkness of the Holocaust and the seemingly hopelessness of the struggle, they came to do the right thing.”
Last year, Klinger had a sculpture erected in Haifa harbor honoring the more than 4,000 Holocaust refugees and crew of the Aliyah Bet ship Exodus 1947 that helped turn the tide of world sentiment in favor of the creation of the State of Israel. Many Aliyah Bet crew and commanders became Machal volunteers.