Trip 17 Day Two: Al Manshiyya & Machon Ayalon
The next day we joined Omar from the organization "Zochrot" to tour Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek, once the Palestinian neighborhood of Al Manshiyyeh, extending north from Jaffa along the Mediterranean shoreline. We first visited the Hassan Beck Mosque, built in 1916 to serve communities on Jaffa's periphery.
During March 1948, in the build up towards the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jewish forces (Hagana) adopted a strategy called Plan D out of fear of losing Jewish neighborhoods on the front lines. Plan D provided that Arab villages on the Jewish side of the 1947 Partition Plan which were deemed potentially hostile could be taken or destroyed. As Manshiyya was seen as the most serious threat to Tel Aviv and the surrounding Jewish neighborhoods, the Etzel forces attacked Manshiyya without coordinating with the Hagana and caused a mass exodus of its inhabitants.
The neighborhood was almost entirely demoished, except for the Hassan Beq mosque – spared due to the state and municipal authorities hesitating to be seen as desecrating a Muslim house of worship. Afterwards, the Charles Clore Park was established opposite the mosque covering most of the historic Manshiyya neighborhood.
After hearing from Omar, we departed for the “Ayalon Institute” in Rehovot, a museum at the site of what was an underground ammunition factory, created for the production of 9mm bullets. It was the size of a tennis court, buried eight meters below ground.
The site operated under complete secrecy during the war of 1948, when it was used by Jewish organized fighting groups. The factory was situated beneath a laundry facility on a Kibbutz, a communal village or town often specializing in a particular industry. Forty-five men and women worked in severe and dangerous conditions every day for 3 years to manufacture thousands of bullets. They were not only under close watch by the British, but the factory was extremely claustrophobic, lacked any natural light, and posed particularly unbearable working conditions on hot days.
Visiting this site sparked many questions about the legitimacy of using violence in order to achieve one’s goals. “Do you think there are similarities between this bullet factory and the current ones of Hamas?” one of the Palestinian participants asked.
After this thought-provoking visit we concluded our trip with a final discussion at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which is a public research university in Rehovot, established in 1934, 14 years before the State of Israel. The Institute has about 2,500 students, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and faculty, and awards M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and biology.
All in all, the trip brought us a step closer to mutual understanding, an understanding made possible by seeing history through the eyes of the other.
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