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Machon Ayalon was an underground bullet factory, located on Kibbutz Hill in Rehovot, Israel. The factory was established in 1946 and was in use as a factory until 1948; however, today the factory is used as a tribute to the brave men and women who worked there in the most extreme of conditions. This underground bullet factory was “secretly created in less than a month, 8 meters (25 feet) underground and was a part of the Haganah"
The kibbutz was created to disguise the factory from the British. In order to get all of the copper for the bullets the kibbutz members told the British that they had a laundry service. The British bought their lie and let them do their "laundry." Yosef Avidar, who was the head of the Israel Military Industries, bought the bullet-making machines from Poland and they were able to put them into the underground factory. It was no easy task to transport the big machines into the factory, but they got them in and started using them right away. They devised an intelligent way of covering up the noises of the machines by having its openings covered by a 10-ton oven and a large washing machine. The washing machine was in use all the time and it became a problem for the kibbutz members because all of their clothes were washed so many times that they became raggedy. Again they came up with a great way of masking their true intentions and created a 24-hour laundry service, so while they were hiding their secret they could also raise money. Not all of the members in the kibbutz were aware that there was a secret underground bullet factory right under their homes. The people who had no idea were referred to as the “Giraffes” by all of the secret factory workers.
Forty-five men and women agreed to risk their lives every day for 3 years to keep this project in motion. Every day 45 people would go underground in less than 3 minutes and begin their risky jobs of manufacturing thousands of bullets. Not only were they under the close watch of the British, but they were also working in dangerous conditions. The factory was extremely claustrophobic and ventilated terribly; on hot days work conditions would be unbearable. There was no sunlight underground, so a lot of the workers would get sick from lack of vitamin D. The workers used a form of radiation to tan their skin, so it wouldn’t look suspicious. Every day when leaving the factory the workers had to make sure they had no traces of their work on them, such as copper shavings or gunpowder. Everyone went through a thorough inspection of their clothes, hair and shoes before being allowed to exit the factory. It wasn’t uncommon for copper shavings to be scraped off of the bottoms of their shoes.
Along with all of the other risks of running a secret underground bullet factory, they also ran the risk of the propellants exploding and killing them all. The workers had to make sure their product was safe and complete, so they randomly sampled bullets and shot them in the factory at targets to check for accuracy and precision. In total they manufactured more than two million 9mm bullets. To transfer the bullets they started by putting them in milk cartons, and later switched to putting them in fuel trucks. They had to be very careful with how they transported the bullets because the British were keeping a very close watch on them. The bullets were transported to the soldiers of Ayalon, and to Eretz Israel. This ammunition contributed to the establishment of the state of Israel. Although the factory was only in use for three years, all of the workers did a great favor to the state of Israel.
Today Machon Ayalon is a museum where people can go and see the kibbutz and the whole underground factory. The tour shows the laundry room and the secret entrance under the washing machine. The tour enters the factory through an alternate entrance located in the bakery, going down a spiral ladder 25 feet into the ground. There is the main room where all of the machines are located; the guide turns on the machines, giving the tour an idea of how loud the machines really were. The tour also shows the radiation room and the bullet-testing room.
- http://www.bible-tours.com/index.php/tour-itineraries/israel-tour-itineraries/158-israel-day-tour-to-machon-ayalon Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.