The Altalena has been located and will be lifted from the floor of the
Mediterranean in a matter of months, Herzl Makov, CEO of the Menachem Begin
Heritage Center, told the Knesset House Committee on Monday.
was a ship carrying Irgun weapons and fighters – many of whom were Holocaust
survivors – to Israel in June 1948. Menachem Begin, at the time the Irgun’s
commander and a future prime minister, boarded the ship as it approached Israel.
The vessel was later fired upon off the Tel Aviv shore by the Palmah unit of
another future prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and sunk on the orders of
then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion.
The ship is seen by many Israelis
as a symbol of the dangers of violence between Jews in Israel.
Secretary Zvi Hauser recounted that a year ago, divers contacted the Prime
Minister’s Office with information on the Altalena’s location, launching the
Begin Center’s search, which has been funded by the Prime Minister’s
“This is a constitutive event in Israeli history,” Hauser said.
“There is historical and public interest in this matter.
minister sees [finding the Altalena] as important and is waiting patiently for
After an investigation of the divers’ original findings on the
Altalena, Begin Center researchers determined that the information was
incorrect, but now believe they have found the precise location of the
Researchers located a metal object that appears to be a ship in a
location that coincides with theoretical research, naval documents and testimony
from people who were present when the ship sank. Local fishermen have testified
that the fish near the site are of species that live near metal.
everything; we just haven’t [physically] gotten to the ship,” Makov explained,
adding that due to a particularly rainy winter the search took longer than
When the project began last summer, researchers thought the
Altalena sank to a depth of 65 meters off the Tel Aviv coast. However, Makov
said, there is sudden increase in depth not far from the shore, from about 70
to 300 m., and the ship apparently sank in deeper waters, requiring
different equipment to reach the vessel, photograph and lift it.
equipment is available in Israel, Makov said, because of recent energy findings
in the area.
“We will continue to the next step in research soon,” Makov
stated, “and remove all doubts about whether the Altalena was definitely
Makov also mentioned a film project in cooperation with former
Channel 2 anchor Gadi Sukenik on the story of the Altalena and the “engineering
of national memory,” as well as lifting the ship from the sea
House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) said that as the
project is of national and historical importance, a private body or donor cannot
“The lifting of the Altalena cannot be a private initiative.
It must come from the State of Israel,” Levin asserted.
Hauser and Makov
assured Levin that the Begin Center is an arm of the government and mostly
funded by the Prime Minister’s Office, as is the Yitzhak Rabin Heritage
Levin also called for the research to be completed as soon as
“I know that people may ask: If we waited 64 years, what
difference do three or four more make,” the Likud MK stated, “but there are
still people [alive] who were there and were witnesses.
It is of great
importance that we close this circle while those people can see the ship brought
up from underwater.”
Hauser promised Levin that the current government
considers the lifting of the Altalena, as well as all national heritage matters,
Makov responded that the project’s completion would take a
matter of months, not years, and did not think it would be problematic to
redirect sea traffic for a day in order to lift the ship.
“That may be
true, but it still hasn’t happened,” Levin pointed out, calling for the navy’s
help in expediting the project.