The Palmach (Hebrew abbreviation of Plugot Mahatz – ôìåâåú îçõ) was the elite striking force of the “Hagana” – the underground military organization of the Jewish community, its national institutions and the Zionist Movement prior to the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Palmach was founded in May 1941 (World War II) in order to help the British to defend the country (then Palestine) against the approaching German armies. In the fall of 1942, as the threat of invasion receded, the British authorities ordered the dismantling of the Palmach, which caused it to go underground. It became a fully mobilized voluntary force consisting of young men and women, organized in six platoons and in special companies: the “Palyam” (marine force), the “Germans”, the “Arabs”, the aviators, and the paratroopers who landed behind the German lines in occupied Europe. The Palmach units were stationed in Kibbutzim, where they underwent military training but also worked on the farms, 14 days a month in order to support themselves. They did not idolize military attributes but created unique social and cultural life.
From the summer of 1945 until the end of 1947, when the British administration suppressed the Jewish settlement movement and blocked Jewish immigration into the country, the Palmach was engaged in bringing 65 ships with tens of thousands of Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors from Europe (Haapala - äòôìä) illegally. The Palmach also launched violent guerilla warfare against the hostile British mandatory rule and its military war machine: destroying police stations and radar installations, sinking naval vessels, mining the railroad system, demolishing the border bridges and more.
At the same time, anticipating the withdrawal of the British and the subsequent Arab military uprisings, preparations were made to counter the attacks of local Arabs and of neighboring countries.
Following the U.N. decision of November 29, 1947 to partition Palestine, Arab armed gangs blocked the roads and besieged Jewish towns, including Jerusalem. At the time 2,200 Palmach fighters were the only force ready to engage in battle, though they were poorly armed. As the War of Independence unfolded, they operated all over the country, liberating Jerusalem and other besieged towns, conquering territories, opening roads and, with the newly organized “Hagana” troops, defeated the invading armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. They fought valiantly but suffered many casualties – over 1,168 dead and hundreds wounded.
Upon the declaration of the State of Israel, May 15, 1948, ZAHAL, the Israel Defense Army (IDF) was established, founded on the infrastructure of the “Hagana” and its striking force, the Palmach. The three brigades – Harel, Yiftach and HaNegev, reinforced by new immigrants – were considered the elite units of the IDF until the end of the War of Independence.
Most of the Palmach’s notable attributes and warfare ethics were incorporated into the IDF, such as, a pioneering spirit, a tradition of volunteering and complete obedience to the Jewish legitimate authorities (the motto “Always at your command” [ìô÷åãä úîéã àðçðå]), moral warfare codes, commando tactics, leadership in battle (the famous battle-cry of field commanders “Follow me” [àçøé]). For many consecutive years, most of the high-ranking commanders of the IDF, including 6 Chiefs of Staff and 40 generals, came from the ranks of the Palmach.
After the war, Palmach members established scores of new settlements all over the country. The Palmach has also left its imprint on many aspects of Israeli politics, society and culture. Its legacy is still alive today.
The Palmach Museum is an experiential museum, covering the Palmach legacy through the stories of individuals and groups. Visitors to the museum join the group of young Palmach recruits from its establishment, and advanced through the story of the Palmach until the end of the War of Independence. The manner of presentation is extremely innovative. There are no displays or documents, but rather an account of a fascinating personal story accompanied by three-dimensional decor, films and various effects incorporating documentary materials. The visit, which is conducted in groups, correlates with the structure of the presentation, set out as a series of events, and symbolizing the Palmach team spirit. The tour commences and ends in the memorial hall for Palmach warriors who died fighting for establishment of the state of Israel.
Visit to the museum must be pre-arranged. The tour is carried out in groups of up to 25 people (individuals visitors will be pre-arranged into groups). The tour is for children over 6 years only. The length of the tour is 90 minutes. The presentation is in Hebrew. English, Spanish, French and Russian speakers will be provided with a translation through headphones. Entrance fee: 30 NIS for adults. 20 NIS for school children and pensioners (payment is by cash or check only). Bus routes: all routes reaching the Tel-Aviv University, parking is available at the Eretz Israel Museum's parking areas, situated adjacent to the Palmach Museum. Driving directions to the Palmach Museum: Take No. 20 Highway ("Netivay Ayalon" - Ayalon freeway). Exit at Rokach West. After 1 Km. drive, turn right to Namir road and after about 200m. turn right again at Levanon St. (passing the Eretz-Israel Museum) and the Palmach Museum is at No. 10 Levanon St.