The Ayalon Institute Museum, also known as Machon Ayalon, brings to life how 45 teens and young adults built a weapons factory and manufactured 2.25 million 9mm bullets right under the British forces’ noses. Just north of Jerusalem lies the kibbutz where a secret ammunition factory was built.
In 1945, Israel was a part of British-controlled Palestine. It was right after World War II had ended, and the Jewish people were determined to rebuild the land of Israel. At the time, the Jewish citizens were wholly unarmed. However, they understood that change was coming, and they needed to be ready. Now, Israel has one of the most prominent military forces in the world. It is almost hard to believe that just 80 years ago, the citizens were making secret bullets underground.
Ayalon Institute Museum: A Bullet Factory Under the British Nose
The Machon Ayalon was created and operated by the Haganah, the main paramilitary organization of the Jewish population at the time who was working with the clandestine Israel Military industries. It took years of preparation to smuggle in the necessary machinery before they could build the factory. When the time was right, Kibbutz Hill in Rehovot was chosen as the perfect location.
It was located conveniently on a hard-to-see hill, where noise would be covered by passing trains, and construction would go unnoticed by the British forces. The factory was built 8 meters underneath a laundromat, where they serviced British soldiers’ laundry needs. A hidden staircase underneath one of the laundry machines led to the underground factory where 45 brave young men and women took on this crucial task.
How Did They Do it?
For three years, the Machon Ayalon produced bullets for the Sten Gun; a machine gun invented by the British in WWII that could shoot 500 rounds a minute. The team could produce up to 40,000 bullets a day at their peak. However, there was more to it than just producing bullets.
The affair was top secret, with every detail planned out; if they were discovered, it would mean the death penalty for all involved. The production team employed clever ways to cover the machines’ noise and when they had to test the bullets in the underground shooting range within the factory. Today you can see all this in the Ayalon Institute Museum.
They even went so far as to have a tanning bed for the workers, so it appeared as though they had been working outside rather than in a sunless factory. Crazy enough, the greatest danger was not the armed British soldiers nearby but the factory itself; one mistake could have made the whole factory explode. Luckily, there was never a fatal accident, they never got caught, and they could create enough ammunition to turn the tide of the future battles Israel would face.
Machon Ayalon Museum Opening Hours:
From Sunday through Thursday: till 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
Friday: 8:30 am to 2:00 pm
Saturday: 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
Note: Visiting the museum REQUIRES booking a tour in advance. Tours are offered in English and Hebrew.