There are two ways to get into Israel’s secret bullet factory: one, is beneath an industrial washing machine, lifted with the press of a button, in what was—for all intents and purposes—a laundry room (a setup that would make Walter White proud). The other is under a hefty oven in a bakery just a couple yards away. Trapdoors, ladders, and a spiral staircase descend deep underground to a defunct hub used for ammunition manufacturing that was instrumental in creating modern-day Israel.
Sixty-nine years ago, an illegal underground Jewish militia called the Haganah used the subterranean space to produce bullets right under the noses of the British, who controlled the territory and forbade Jews from carrying weapons. Punishment for being caught with arms was possible death. But young Zionists who had arrived in the inhospitable land intent on settling their promised country by whatever means foresaw a war over their claimed nation once the British left, and rapidly began to take precautionary steps.
Already hardened by a rough life of building their communities from scratch, these determined pioneers were nothing if not enterprising in difficult circumstances. Under the guise of starting a new kibbutz—a kind of communal and agricultural community that had sprung up across the country in the prior decade—a group of recent Jewish youth scout graduates moved into a location just 15 miles south of Tel Aviv.