Exodus commander Yossi Harel dies at 90

His daughter Sharon says Harel's heart stopped beating on Saturday.

yossi harel 88 (photo credit: )
yossi harel 88
(photo credit: )
Yossi Harel, commander of the illegal Jewish immigrant ship Exodus, immortalized in the Otto Preminger movie, has died in Tel Aviv at the age of 90. His daughter Sharon said Harel's heart stopped beating on Saturday. "He was one of a generation of giants. He fought fearlessly for the State of Israel and to protect and strengthen it," she told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. "His courageous spirit was marked by his modesty, generosity and passion." The voyage of the Exodus has become a symbol of the Jewish struggle for statehood. More than 4,500 Holocaust survivors packed the ship when it tried to run the British blockade of Palestine in 1947. The British Navy seized the vessel when it arrived at the shores of Palestine in July 1947, and after a battle at sea that left three people dead, turned the ship and its passengers back to Europe. Harel led four of the 66 ships that brought illegal Jewish refugees to Palestine under the British mandate, "Overall, we brought 100,000 people but this was the bloodiest war we ever had. In the War for Independence, we had 600,000 Jews, and we lost 6,000 - one percent," Harel reflected several years ago. "Running the blockade, we lost over 3,000 people drowned in the Black Sea - three percent." "With all these casualties, they kept coming, they didn't stop," he added. "A nation destroyed was coming back to life." The Jerusalem-born Harel is to be buried at 5 p.m. in Kibbutz Sdot Yam on Monday. He is survived by three children, eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.