Skip to comments.Kibbutz members find arms cache from War of Independence era
Posted on 04/23/2004 11:33:04 PM PDT by yonif
On the eve of the 56th Independence Day, two veteran members of Kibbutz Lahavot Habashan in the Hula Valley have revealed a long-held secret the site of a "slick," a hidden arms cache, from the days of the British Mandate.
Police and sappers on Wednesday found a carefully concealed bunker under the floor of a warehouse, not far from the dining hall, some 12 meters deep and about 10 meters square with built-in steps leading down from the access hole, which was covered by a concrete slab.
Inside they discovered around 40 rifles of various types, ammunition, a water-cooled machine gun, and submachine guns.
Only two members of the kibbutz, one of them over 85 years old, knew of the existence of the cache. The other, Jackie Shaham, 82, who had apparently talked the matter over with his colleague beforehand, approached kibbutz security officer Meir Schmil on Wednesday morning and told him of the hidden armory.
"It seems that even after the War of Independence, they were uncertain about the future of the state and whether they would still need to defend themselves, so they built this bunker," Schmil told The Jerusalem Post. "They collected all the weapons used in the defense of the kibbutz that had been hidden in other slicks in the area and stored them in the hidden cache.
"All the guns were greased, wrapped in paper, and carefully stored, so it won't take much to restore them to full working order. They are now in the process of being removed and will be handed over for exhibition at the IDF and Hagana museums.
"I don't why they chose to reveal the secret cache now. Maybe they have finally come to the conclusion that they don't need to worry about defending the state or the kibbutz and, as they are both elderly, they didn't want to leave anything undone." Shaham, one of the founding members of the kibbutz, whose family immigrated to Palestine when he was only three, said that in the days leading up to the War of Independence and during the fighting, they had been forced to defend themselves.
"There were not many weapons and most of them went to the Hagana and the Palmah. We had a few that we were given that we hid in slicks, but we had only the minimum of the minimum," he said.
"We tried to buy weapons from Syrian smugglers but they wanted 400, a fortune in those days. I went to the headquarters of the Kibbutz Artzi movement in Tel Aviv, a four-day trip, to try to raise the money.
"In the end, we bought some of the weapons because we didn't have the money for all of them and hid them in the slicks, making sure they were well concealed but accessible."
Shaham, who joined the Hagana at 15, said that after the war they collected all the weapons from the various slicks because there was a danger of them being damaged, and he helped build the bunker where they were all subsequently stored.
"I think it was in 1950 or 1951 that we put the weapons in there. Only two or three of us knew about it. None of the other members of the kibbutz knew about it or the location of the other slicks," he said.
"You have to remember that we were only 800 meters from the Syrian border, surrounded by Arab villages, and that we went through a trauma during the fighting.
"We were constantly attacked and were under siege for several days. We called for assistance, but were told there weren't enough fighters and we would have to hold out. We felt helpless and we knew that if we didn't defend ourselves nobody would."
He said this feeling persisted through the early years of the state and the weapons were kept in the secret cache in case they were once again needed.
"Then over the years we had other things to do and think about as the kibbutz and the country grew and the slicks were kind of forgotten," he said.
"It was about eight years ago I remembered there was another slick with explosives, mortar rounds, and grenades in it, and I was worried that if anything happened to me nobody would know.
"I was afraid about the future generations and that if there were any expansion of the kibbutz or infrastructure work, it might be dug up and explode... It took me a lot of thinking until I was able in my mind to visualize the location and that's where it was.
"The explosives were removed to a safe place and destroyed, I think. That slick reminded me that there was another one, and at some stage the penny dropped and I started to try to recall the location... I suppose you could say it was a secret we had kept, unlike [Mordechai] Vanunu."
He was outlining how the Allies had air-dropped "care packages" to Scandanavian Resistance fighters against the Nazis in WWII... a typical box had 2 STEN submachine guns, ammo, mags, and mag loaders ( you can't fully load a STEN mag by hand ) a couple or three sidearms, and perhaps a few grenades or other demolition materials.
He was interviewing a "former resistance fighter, 75 years young" and the old guy startled him by mentioning "...and we saved a few of those boxes, lad... just in case we needed 'em again..."
While it's a funny, yet deadly-serious story, it makes a point I have made for decades-- there is a lot of unaccounted-for ordnance floating around in the world from past conflicts ranging from world wars to firefights. That's merely one reason "sensible gun regulations" are a pipe dream of true believers in that particular agenda. You'll never get rid of them. Of course, what I was indoctrinated in so many years ago was even simpler-- "If you need a weapon, you take it from the man who has one..."
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