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Defining moments. The Exodus (archives)
Photo: GPO
On board the Exodus
Dragged into Haifa port after battle at sea, thousands of immigrants aboard Exodus and on land joined together, singing Hatikvah

My most Israeli moment happened before the official induction of the State of Israel.

 

It was the early afternoon hours of July 18, 1947 when the Exodus sailed into the Haifa port. Obviously, it was the first time I've ever sent the Israeli coastline, Haifa and Mount Carmel.

 

More than 4,600 immigrants were crowding the ship's four decks, just eight days out of the southern French port of Sète. We were exhausted, the lot of us. Many were wounded from the fight we waged – hundreds of us – against his royal highness' war ships and naval commando, which tries to take over the Exodus.

 

The battle's commander, Yossi (Hamburger) Harel, ordered to stop the fighting when the British destroyers began ramming the ship, all while the soldiers began using fire arms. Face with our immediate three fatalities and 200 casualties, some in critical condition, Yossi realized we had to stop fighting to avert further losses – especially since as the British destroyers rammed into the sides of the ship – panic swept through the ship's bowels, where most of the immigrant were.

 

The British boarded the ship and began towing it to the Haifa port. The battle was transmitted in its "live" entirety by out radio man – Azriel Einav (RIP) to the Hagana station in Israel, so in fact the entire settlement was following our every step; proud of the immigrants' courage and concerned for their fate versus the British Navy.

 

When Azriel announced the British were dragging the ship to Haifa, thousands rallied from near and far to the port, to greet the brave immigrants.

 

When we entered the port we noticed the thousands, cramped against the bars which surrounded the perimeter. One of the boys – who had already climbed up the mast – was then given an order to wave the Zionist flag which later became Israel's flag. When in waved, we all stood to attention, singing Hatikvah. The thousands who stood there with us, and all those looking at the scene from their surrounding homes, joined us then, in a mass chanting of the hymn.

 

The 60 years in which I have lived in Israel have seen countless other moments of pride and exuberance. But the most exiting one of all was that one moment, just before the Jewish state was founded.

 

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