Hundreds flock to commemorate clandestine Jewish immigration in Tel Aviv

Hundreds of thousands of Jews made their way to the British Mandate of Palestine despite a strict quota imposed on Jewish immigration by the British.

August 28, 2018 02:43
2 minute read.

Haapala Tel Aviv, August 27, 2018 (Credit: Anna Ahronheim)

Haapala Tel Aviv, August 27, 2018 (Credit: Anna Ahronheim)


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Hundreds of Israelis gathered on Tel Aviv’s Gordon Beach on Monday to watch a reenactment of the arrival of Jews aboard immigrant ships to British Mandate Palestine.

Ha’apala 2018 featured folk dancing, a flash mob, sculptured ships in the sand and a computerized list to help locate relatives who were on the illegal ships. The event was hosted by the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the World Zionist Organization and the Zionist Council in Israel-Anglo Division.

“What we are trying to do here today is to take the Ha’apala to Tel Aviv in order to make a much bigger exposure of it to the public,” Noa Geffen, development director at the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites told The Jerusalem Post during the event.

“It’s the end of the summer and people are looking for activities for their families, so we decided to bring this event to where they are, to the beach of Tel Aviv and share with them a very heroic and important chapter of our history,” she added.

According to Geffen, around 130,000 people participated in the clandestine illegal immigration and the organization has been able to find 110,000 names of those who took part at the time.

“What we feel very obligated to do is to document the personal stories of those people. So during the past 20 years with the help of Jewish National Fund of America and other partners, we’ve managed to collect many personal stories,” Geffen said. “We have most of the names but not their full stories and we are running out of time. We are losing them. Not many are still alive, even those who were children are pretty old now.”

Between 1939 and 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews made their way to the British Mandate of Palestine despite a strict quota imposed on Jewish immigration by the British.

More than 90% of ships fitted to take the maximum number of passengers, mainly Holocaust survivors, were intercepted by the British Navy, which forcibly removed the Jewish refugees to the Atlit detention camp and then to internment camps in Cyprus, where by 1948 over 50,000 Jews were held.

During the event, hundreds of people crowded the computerized stand, looking for information on their relatives and others providing information of their relatives who took part in the Ha’apala.

“We have the Atlit information center where we document the personal stories. and we keep looking for additional information all the time. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to find many of the missing stories. This is what we are trying to do here today.”

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