January 10th 2015
More than meets the eye, the Ayalon Institute Museum is located north of the central Israeli city of Rehovot. On the surface, this area was used for training young people for idyllic and pastoral kibbutz life. Above ground, there was a fully functioning kibbutz, which was built in just 22 days, complete with housing, a dining hall, chicken coop, cow barn, workshops, a laundry, a bakery, and a vegetable garden. But underground, this kibbutz was the first pre-state Israeli bullet production factory, built during the times of the British Mandate and used by pioneer groups including the Palmach, Hagana and Hatzofim.
In the 1930s, the Zionist leadership began to illegally produce and smuggle weapons for the coming revolt against British rule and War of Independence, which ultimately saw Israel defend itself against eight Arab armies. Machine guns were relatively easy to procure, but bullet production proved more difficult. The Jews smuggled machinery into Palestine and began to produce bullets underground. In its day, the Ayalon Institute was the largest underground IMI (Israel Military Industries) factory and produced well over two-million 9mm bullets during its years of operation from 1946 to 1948. And all the while, only a few of the kibbutz residents were privy to the activities taking place below ground.
Today, the Ayalon Institute functions as a museum. Watch a short film on the history of the institute and see how this factory was hidden from the British for so many years and how it operated. You will see the laundry, which ran 24 hours a day to conceal the noise of the factory below. The bakery provided clean air to the factory through pipes attached to its furnace. Both the bakery and the laundry concealed secret entrances into the factory, which you can climb down. Learn how the bullets were produced, how they were shipped to military groups, and how the British were kept in the dark.
The Ayalon Institute is open Sunday-Thursday 8:30 AM- 4:00 PM (last tour is at 3:00 PM), Friday and Holiday Eves, 8:30 AM-2:00 PM, Saturday and Holidays: 9:00 AM-4:00 PM, by appointment only.
The Ayalon Institute is not far from the Weizmann Institute, Israel’s premier science research center. Complete your day with a guided tour of the Weizmann campus.