Exodus passengers who later fell in Israel's wars. Photo: Guy Assayag, KKL-JNF Information Network.
(photo credit: GUY ASSAYAG/KKL-JNF)
On July 5, 2019, KKL-JNF dedicated a plaque commemorating the Exodus 1947 (Flight from Europe 5707) immigration ship, at the Donor Appreciation Center in Ofer Forest. The forest sits on the Carmel Mountain range, not too far from the Haifa shore where the British Navy had towed the Exodus in order to return its passengers back to DP camps in Europe. The commemorative plaque was donated by Friends of KKL-JNF from around the world in order to perpetuate the legacy of the Exodus and its courageous passengers.
The dramatic story of the Exodus 1947 illegal immigration ship was perhaps the most iconic symbol of the Aliya Bet Jewish immigration campaign, which took place just before the establishment of the Jewish State, in the face of continuous British restrictions.
Aboard the ship, which departed the Port Sète in France for Eretz Yisrael, were 4,530 Holocaust survivors who came from displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria. Before they could reach Haifa, the ship was boarded by the British Navy and a bloody battle ensued, during which three passengers were killed and dozens more wounded. The British did not allow the immigrants to enter Israel, banishing them back to their DP camps in Germany and Austria. The story of the Exodus shifted world opinion on the plight of the Jewish refugees, and helped advance the political struggle against the British occupation, eventually leading to the historic November 29, 1947 UN Partition Plan for the establishment of the Jewish State.
Several dozen participants took part in the moving ceremony, including some of those who had been abroad the Exodus, together with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – a total of four generations.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr. Zvi Hatkevich, whose parents had been on the Exodus while his mother was pregnant with him, said, “The story of the ship Exodus and its eviction is the story of the heroism of 4,554 illegal immigrants - Holocaust survivors and refugees from Europe and North Africa who were aboard the ship. Ruth Gruber immortalized this saga in her book ‘Exodus 1947: The Ship That Launched a Nation’. This is a story of the heroism of the Palmach, Palyam and Machal (volunteers from abroad) fighters. This is the story of the heroism of the ship’s crew, the last of whom, Sam Shulman, passed away this week. I would like to thank all the KKL-JNF personnel for their support in preserving the legacy of the Exodus.”
KKL-JNF Western Galilee-Carmel Region Director Shali Ben-Yishai, moved at the presence of four generations of Exodus immigrants, said, “The Exodus illegal immigrants are a symbol of morality and the unswerving determination to make Aliya to Eretz Yisrael, a story that should never be taken for granted. As the next generation, we are obligated to protect the land of Israel, whatever the cost. KKL-JNF will do whatever is necessary so that this amazing and moving story, which expresses the very essence of the Zionist ethos, will be told and retold from generation to generation.”