Remember the Exodus: For All These Things
Natan Sharansky was hardly alone in this... When speaking at an event commemorating 70 years since the Exodus ship made its heroic voyage, the executive director of the Jewish Agency and former Russian refusenik spoke about how back in Russia no one ever heard the real Exodus story; rather it was only after Leon Uris' 1958 fictionalized account, 'Exodus', came out that he learned about the Aliyah Bet and it became a part of his own dream to make aliyah to Israel.
In fact the bestseller, and the epic 1960 film starring Paul Newman based on it, are, for many, all the education they have on this event that was so pivotal to the founding of the State of Israel. And that's a shame, because while they gave deep Zionist feelings in abundance, they gave little to no historical fact.
Now, 70 years later, efforts are being made to learn and understand - and to remember - the incredible determination and courage of the 4515 Holocaust survivors who were forced back to Germany by the British army before being able to disembark in the Promised Land, and the impact the episode had in the State of Israel's founding.
One way was through a moving ceremony at the Haifa Port, including a special exhibition by the the Israel Forever Foundation and the installation of a beautiful monument commemorating the ship and the events surrounding it.
More than 100 survivors were present, along with their families, various dignitaries, soldiers in the IDF navy and a group of new immigrants and other guests to view a beautiful exhibit, listen to moving speakers and performers, and witness the installation of the permanent monument dedicated to this difficult, impactful event.
Among the speakers were Israeli MK Yoav Galant who was joined by his mother, Froma Galant, who had been a 12-year-old on the Exodus. Galant spoke of how the Exodus incident represents the transition from the Holocaust to revival. Seeing Galant up there with his own mother underscored the deep, real connection Israelis have to the roots of the founding of our state.
Survivor Aryeh Itamar, who was just 8 years old on the boat, spoke about the power of being together with other survivors and the powerful moment of seeing the Haifa coastline in front of him.
All of the survivors have their own stories to tell. Just walking around the port, it was a pretty safe bet that any person there over 70 had his or her own personal story of the Exodus. Many of the younger ones too. Like Miriam, whose parents were both on the Exodus, and who grew up under the shadow of the pivotal events surrounding it.
Legendary Israeli folk singer Shuli Natan sang the timeless classic 'Yerushalayim shel Zahav' accompanied by British violinist Verity Steele. The violinist had discovered that her uncle had been part of the British Royal Navy that tried to prevent the Exodus from coming to Palestine. She was there to apologize to the Exodus survivors...
What brought so many to tears was when Shuli Natan sang 'Al Kol Eileh' (For All These Things). We looked around and there were all of these survivors singing along to such powerful words, it was everything:
"Over the person who returns home from the distances...
Over all these things, grant your protection my Lord...
Do not forget the hope...
Bring me back and I shall return to the good land."
Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken about Israel and Aliyah all over the United States and Israel. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is currently the director of marketing at Shavei Israel, as well as a marketing consultant.