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Ayalon Institute (Hebrew: מכון איילון, Makhon Ayalon) was an underground bullet factory, located on Kibbutz Hill in Rehovot, Israel, disguised as a kibbutz that ran a laundry service. The factory was established in 1946 and manufactured ammunition until 1948; today it is a museum and national historical site. It was “secretly created in less than a month, 8 meters (25 feet) underground and was run by the Haganah"
Factory operations and risks
The kibbutz was created to disguise the factory from the British military. To get all of the copper for the bullets, the kibbutz members told the British that they operated a laundry service. The British accepted the stated purpose of the factory and let the kibbutz operate. Yosef Avidar, who was the head of the Israel Military Industries, bought the bullet-making machines from Poland, and they were able to install them in the underground factory. It was a difficult task to transport the big machines into the factory under the watch of the British. To cover up the entrance and noises of the machines, the factory was covered by a 10-ton oven and a large washing machine. The washing machine was in use constantly, and the kibbutz members' clothes were washed so often that they became ragged. The 24-hour laundry service used as a front was profitable. Not all of the members in the kibbutz were aware that there was a secret underground bullet factory under their homes, and such people were referred to as "giraffes" by the factory workers.
Forty-five men and women worked in the bullet factory for 3 years. Every day they would go underground in less than 3 minutes to evade the close watch of the British. The factory was claustrophobic and poorly ventilated; on hot days work conditions were unbearable. There was no sunlight underground, so a lot of the workers got sick from lack of vitamin D. The workers used a form of radiation to tan their skin to avoid suspicion. 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. Often, copper shavings were scraped off of the bottoms of their shoes.
The workers also ran the risk of the propellants exploding and killing them. To make sure the product was safe and worked correctly, they randomly sampled bullets and shot them at targets in the factory to check for accuracy and precision. In total they manufactured more than two million 9mm bullets. To transfer the bullets they first put them in milk cartons and later transferred them to fuel trucks. They had to be 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 played a role in the Establishment of Israel.
Today Ayalon Institute is a museum preserving and displaying the kibbutz and 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 the machines are located; the guide turns on the machines to demonstrate how loud the machines were. The tour also shows the radiation room and the bullet-testing room.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-27. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
- 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.