Magach magach magach - A razor was raining from a bank.

Officially there was never a tank in the IDF that was called MAGACH, but only a tank with no marks. Why to this day are there even veteran tank commanders who continue to do so? Lt. Col. Amiad Barzner has the solution. Now continue reading and learn about the Patton tank - as it is written "Magach."

A Brief History of the Development of IDF Tank Names

During the War of Independence and the years that followed, the tanks used by the IDF Armored Corps were known by the names given to them by their creators or by the users in the various armies. Those interested in history remember the tanks that the IDF acquired and used during the War of Independence - the Sherman (a British name for the American M4 tank), the Cromwell (a British name) and the Hotchkiss (a French name). Tanks taken as prizes of war continued to be called by their original names such as: the Locust and the Renault. The armored vehicles used during this period were also known by their origianl names or their engine types. This practice continued for years. The complex name of the French AMX-13 (originally: Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les- Moulineaux), whose tanks first joined the IDF in 1955, remained unchanged, and given its difficulty to be written in Hebrew was called אמכ ״ס A-me-ke-ss at the time. (Currently the correct writing is אי-אם-אקס-13).

In 1958 as negotiations for the acquisition of the British Centurion tanks began, this practice changed and the main reason was secrecy. Both Israel and Britain for their own sakes sought to conceal the existence of the deal, at least in its early stages, and the Centurion was given the name Sho't שוט "Whip". But it turned out that it was difficult to hide an object as large as a tank so in 1959 as the first vehicles were unloaded in the port of Haifa, the IDF reduced the security classification of the tanks but the nickname it had been given while at the time considered temporary continued to be used.

The use of IDF code names initially begun by the security services to keep the purchase and acquisition of new tanks a secret continued. In 1963 the close relationship between Shimon Peres, then deputy Defense Minister, and Joseph Strauss, the German Defense Minister, created an opportunity that the IDF could obtain Leopard tanks. But in the end the plan was not implemented because a change in government in Germany resulted in the German tank development program being extended. But even here, the use of a code name continued and the Leopard was given the IDF name of "Barak"/Lightning.

This convention that in order to ensure secrecy in the purchase of tanks and other military equipment they be given IDF codenames was strengthened in the years that followed. The Patton M48A1 that the USA in 1964 agreed to sell to Israel tried to hide it by asking Germany to supply the tank, was called "magach" and later its various types were called Magach 1 (M48A1), Magach 2 (M48A2C), Magach 3 (M48A3), Magach 6 (M60) and Magach 6A/B (M60A1). The Chieftain tank which the British promised to manufacture in the country with two tanks sent to Israel for examination and testing with strict secrecy requirements, was given the name "Abir"/Knight אביר. In later years it seemed that giving IDF codenames to armored vehicles became a normal and accepted practice even when secrecy was not that important. The Soviet-made T-54, T-55 and T-62 which were used by the IDF had their own nickname - Tiran טירן and became respectively the Tiran 4, the Tiran 5 and the Tiran 6. The M-113s that arrived in 1971 were initially given the codename Mustang מוסטנג and later given the official name Cheetah ברדלס but the nickname of Zelda זלדה first given to these APCs captured in 1967 (TRANS NOTE: the Six Day War and the Jordanian Army) continued to be used and did not disappear.

The names of some of the tanks were symbolic, perhaps even indicative of what was expected from the tanks: Abir/Knight - or armored combat capability on the battlefield, Barak/Lightning - a quick and surprising shock stroke, a Whip/Sho't to lash the enemy (the issue of the name Magach will be discussed below). As stated the IDF codenames have not changed despite the change in security classification or were determined well before the security restrictions. Ordinarily the names were determined by senior armored corps commanders but in at least three cases they were the product of Israel Tal (TRANS NOTE: Tal, aomng other accomplishments, led the development of the Merkava tank.)

Regarding the Name Magach

The purchase of the first Magach tanks, which represented a sharp change in American policy which until then had prevented the sale of arms to Israel, was made possible after a meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol with US President Johnson in 1964. The first documents which discussed the purchase and which used the IDF name given the Patton tank were from August 1964. The name 'Magach' which was given to the Patton M48 tank has the meaning "to lunge or gore with horns" [1] and it is unfortunate that the meaning is not as apparent as the names given to other tanks which could be understood by any ordinary person. Graduates of the education system in Israel who knew Hebrew but had no deep knowledge of the Hebrew language found it difficult to explain the origin of the name and its meaning. This is how the name became accepted as strange or mysterious to be interpreted and explained.

All of the explanations of the name 'magach' are premised on the assumption that since the meaning of the word itself is not self evident it could only be understaood as an acronym or abbreviation and that is was therefore appropriate to divine its meaning. Some of these explanation benefit from the existence of the letters M and H in the word 'magach' and the acceptance of the relationship of the letters and numbers in M48. (Gematria is a Kabbalistic method of interpreting the meaning of Hebrew writing by computing the numeric value of the letters that formed the words.) Here are some examples:

Moshe Givati in his book "In Their Hands Steel was Forged" describing the development of the Ordnance Corps, writes: "The excellent tank (the Patton M48A1 which was to change to M48A3) decided to read the IDF name as MAGACH " mg"h " (the gematria of M48A3 is 48 = MH, 3 = C). [2]

One of the graduates of training course in 1964 in Germany offered an explanation that magach is an acronym composed of the number 48 = מ״ח and the third letter ג, a reminder of the first magach tanks that Israel received from Germany.

Other explanations sought symbolic or other meaning for the initials megach . Many members of the armor corps thought that the name magach symbolized the positive qualities of members of the corps and therefore is an acronym for Merkavat Giborei HaKayal. מרכבת גיבורי החיל (chariots ??? ???)

There are other interpretations such as mgh = flat pitched, or 'charred chariot' or even a strange explanation like using 'electric shavers' as a description to hide the tank shipments.

The fascination with the name magach as representing an acronym or an abbreviation (regardless of the various interpretations) took root in the IDF to the extent that in official documents from militay institutions and by those who grew up in the armored corps and dealt with the tanks.

It has been over 40 years since the tanks first entered IDF service and it is difficult to fix a longstanding misunderstanding and call it not MAGACH but Magach. It is true that all beginnings are difficult but it is better to make a late correction than to continue using a name based on a superficial and basic understanding of the Hebrew language.

Now is the time to write magach (from the word magaha) and not the initials MAGH.

Take from an articla in Armor (Shiryon) Magazine, Vol 30, December 2008, pp.23-25