Construction workers preparing to build a new classroom at a school in northern Israel discovered a large underground weapons cache on Monday that included 50 decades-old guns and grenades described as having survived in pristine condition.
The weapons found on Kibbutz Mesilot were among those hidden by fighters of the Haganah, the Jewish community’s defense force when the area was under British rule before the 1948 War of Independence.
Beit She'an Police Chief Superintendent Amos Shimoni told Ynet that the weapons were preserved so well in a large box that some appeared to be in practically new condition.
During the years that preceded the 1948 war, kibbutz members hid guns and grenades near their homes to defend against attacks by Arab gunmen. Over the years, as the veterans have died one by one, none ever revealed where the weapons were stashed, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.
“It’s simply amazing,” local resident Mordechai Brown told Channel 10.
Ami Magen, also of Mesilot, said that neighbors knew there was a weapons storage box somewhere in the area, but nobody could pinpoint the exact location.
“The people who hid the weapons are no longer alive, and they didn't tell anyone where the weapons were, even after the War of Independence and the establishment of the state,” Magen told Channel 10, adding that the firearms had been wrapped in wax paper.
Similar 1940s weapons caches have been discovered in the past in Israel. Israel National News explained their background: “The caches were originally hidden by members of Jewish communities in pre-state days, who smuggled them into the country to defend themselves against Arabs, and later, to fight the Mandatory government's British troops.”
“The weapons were illegal, and were hidden away for use when fighting became imminent. In many areas, however, the weapons were never taken out of their hiding places either because they weren't needed, or because they were forgotten,” the news site added.
After another cache was discovered in 2004 on Kibbutz Lahavot Habashan, local security officer Meir Schmil told the Jerusalem Post, "It seems that even after the War of Independence, they [Jewish residents] were uncertain about the future of the state and whether they would still need to defend themselves, so they built this bunker."
On Monday, police sappers were called to the site of the hidden weapons and moved them to the police station in nearby Beit She'an.