President Rivlin and 12 passengers of the Exodus ship marked seven decades since the crucial events surrounding their voyage to Israel, a milestone towards the establishment of the State of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin met at his residence in Jerusalem on Sunday with 12 passengers who traveled to Israel on the Haganah’s Exodus ship, marking seven decades since the ship’s iconic voyage to the Land of Israel.

The Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in the British Mandate of Palestine founded in 1920. It became the Israel Defense Forces after the establishment of the Jewish state.

In 1947, 4554 Jewish refugees, mostly Holocaust survivors, sailed towards Israel, then under control of the British Mandate, but were intercepted by British warships. After a bitter struggle, they were turned away and subsequently sent back to Germany.

The events were depicted in the 1958 novel “Exodus” and the 1960 movie of the same name.

Yitzhak Rosman, son of the late Mordechai Rosman, leader of the passengers seeking entry into the Land of Israel, and Dr. Zvi Hatkevitz were present at the event. Hatkevitz presented Rivlin with a copy of the diary written by his father, David Hatkevitz, aboard the Exodus.

“The Exodus is a symbol. This ship was a turning point in the attitude of the whole world, in the global political dispute, to the morality behind the idea of establishing a state for the Jews in the Land of Israel,” Rivlin stated, adding that “this was a decisive event in the decision taken on 29 November [the United Nations voted to approve the Partition Plan, a step towards the establishment of Jewish state]. You were refugees from the Holocaust, who come to your country and your homeland out of a clear determination that there was no other way but to come to the Land of Israel.”

“I remember the terrible shock that gripped the entire Yishuv (Jewish community) when you boarded the three ships in order to take you back to the terrible disaster,” he said.

Speaking to the passengers, as well as to their second, third, and fourth-generation descendants, Rivlin said, “I am fortunate as President of the State of Israel to mark with you and your families, that the State of Israel, and the flag of Israel, are obvious facts.”

‘One Great Hope to Reach the Land of Israel’

“Sevemty years ago this week, the ship arrived at the Haifa port after a night battle during which British soldiers took control of the ship. The passengers of the Exodus disembarked from the ship, and were immediately removed from the Land of Israel on three British deportation boats. We, the passengers of the Exodus and our descendants, came together to raise awareness of the story of the Exodus on the 70th anniversary of the journey. The story of the ship, and the story of the deportation, the story of the heroism of 4,554 passengers, survivors and refugees from the Holocaust in Europe and North Africa, who were aboard the ship,” Hatkevitz stated.

“Of course, we will never forget the members of the Machal, the Palmach, the ‘Gideonim’, the Bericha and the Aliyah Bet organization, who did everything they could to ensure the success of the mission,” he underscored. Three of the ship’s passengers were killed during the scuffles with the British troops.

Yitzhak Rosman recounted how “on the Exodus, there were children, women, and men who had lived through the Holocaust in Europe with one great hope to reach the Land of Israel. There was no difference between the religious or secular, Ashkenazi or Moroccan Jews.”

“The story of the Exodus must not be forgotten,” he declared. “It is a story of determination, heroism and courage. A human mosaic of people who lost all most precious to them in the terrible war.”

“In our national anthem, we sing ‘We have not lost our hope,’ and the immigrants had not lost hope, the desire to reach a safe haven and start a new life. The people of the Exodus are everywhere in the State of Israel and active in all spheres of life. They were privileged to see the revival of the People of Israel in the Land of Israel. We have not changed, we have not stopped loving our country, we are the same Zionists who dreamed of the Land of Israel, loved the Land of Israel, and established their homes forever in the Land of Israel,” he concluded.

By: United with Israel Staff

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