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Rehovot, Israel

Machon Ayalon

Hidden beneath a washing machine in a fake kibbutz, this secret bullet factory has been preserved as a museum. 

Under the British Mandate, it became clear that hostilities between the Jewish and Arab populations were going to turn to armed violence so Jewish forces created Machon Ayalon, a secret bullet factory that was hidden beneath a fake kibbutz created just to hide their arms manufacturing. 

Built in 1946 the factory and kibbutz sprang up in just 22 days. Despite the large bullet making machinery, the factory was able to be completed in complete secrecy, calling itself the Ayalon Institute. A massive oven and roaring industrial washing machine were placed over the entrance to the factory masking the sounds and smells of the bullet making among the cacophony and scent of cooking and cleaning. The people living on the kibbutz, being of little means, began washing their clothes so often and repeatedly that they actually began to fall apart. The unfortunate workers who braved the cramped confines of the factory space worked long shifts in the claustrophobic conditions, breathing machinery fumes and often becoming ill from lack of sunlight. The factory ran for three years completely undetected thanks rigorous dusting offs of everyone leaving the factory lest they drag errant copper or iron filings topside. 

The operation was so airtight that not even all of the people living on the kibbutz above knew of the factory. Those who were in the dark about the manufacturing were known as “Giraffes” by the other members of the scheme.

Today the site has been preserved as museum devoted to the ambitious factory. Visitors can still descend into the hidden entryway beneath the washing machine and see the machinery and conditions that men and women endured to secure their independence.