>>The Illegal Immigration
The Illegal Immigration 2018-02-19T22:11:56+00:00

A little background

The British conquered the Land of Israel from the Ottomans in 1917 during World War I and held it until 1948. Starting in the 1920s, their rule received international recognition. The League of Nations proclaimed that the British Mandate would rule the Land of Israel, while adopting the Balfour Declaration which proclaimed that a national homeland for the Jews would be established in the Land of Israel and that the Mandate would help the Jews and Jewish settlement. On the other hand, it also stated that the rights and status of other groups would be guaranteed. The tension between these two directions accompanied the British throughout their rule. Limiting the number of Jewish immigrants entering the Land of Israel and closing the gates to thousands of refugees seeking a safe haven was meant to maintain good relations with the Arabs since the strengthening of the Jewish population was one of the major factors causing Arab unrest.

The Illegal Immigration

If the Gate is Closed, it Can’t be Opened (1934-1947)

Ha’afala is the name given to the illegal immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel during the period of the British Mandate. Every year the British Mandate government would set a quota for aliyah certificates given to the Jews. There were very few certificates relative to the number of Jews wishing to come to the Land of Israel. Moreover, there was a clear preference to rich people or to people who could support themselves. However, after Hitler’s rise to power, the situation of the Jews in Europe worsened drastically and large numbers of Jews, not only the wealthy, wanted to immigrate to the Land of Israel. It was decided to circumvent the British quota and to bring Jews to the Land of Israel without certificates.
A variety of means were found: some of the people entered into fictitious marriages with people living in the Land of Israel, others registered for studies at universities in the Yishuv, though they never showed up for classes, but most of them came in illegally over land or by sea.

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A Clandestine Ship Flounders…

The Mossad le-Aliyah Bet and the Pal-Yam, the branch of the Palmach which focused on illegal immigration, the Haganah and the Etzel started the operation in Europe. There they organized groups of illegal immigrants. They took care of them before the voyage (a place to sleep, food, water) and during the voyage. They found the ships and the crew that would agree to endanger themselves, or alternatively, they acquired ships, hired crews, and of course, everything cost a lot of money, which had to be found quickly.
Most of the countries from which the ships sailed left them alone. The challenge was in reaching the Land of Israel in small cargo boats, old and broken-down, and to escape the watchful eyes of the British destroyers in the middle of the sea and the British soldiers awaiting them on the shore. Every boat was equipped with a means of communication which would signal their arrival to the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet, the Pal-Yam or the underground organizations that organized the passage and were waiting for the boat to anchor near the coast. Under the cover of darkness, the volunteers helped the men, women and children off the boasts and then took them to nearby settlements. The newcomers quickly changed their clothes and then mixed in with the old-timers. There was nothing the British could do, but to return empty-handed. The people who lived near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea played an active part in the operations. Kibbutz Yagur and Kibbutz Nitzanim were famous for the role they played.

A Clandestine Ship Flounders…

The First Stage (1934-1939): Hitler’s Rise to Power

The first stage of the illegal immigration started after Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and continued until the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939. Several different bodies took part in the illegal immigration operation: The Pioneer which became the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet and worked within the Haganah, the New ןWorld Zionist Organization of the Revisionist Movement and private bodies that worked as “contractors”. They organized the escape of Jews from Europe to the Land of Israel for large sums of money. During this period, more than 50,000 people reached the shores of the Land of Israel. Approximately 2/3 of them arrived under the auspices of the Revisionist Movement and private bodies, while 1/3 came through the Pioneer and the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet.

The Second Stage (1939-1945): The Holocaust

The illegal immigration did not stop during World War II, and despite all the difficulties 16,000 illegal immigrants managed to arrive in the Land of Israel. Some of the boats did not succeed in reaching the shores of the Land of Israel because they were in such bad shape and they were overloaded. They sank or were sunk. That was the fate of the Patria (Moledet), which sank in 1940 and the Struma, which sank in 1942.

The Third Stage (1945-1947): After the Holocaust

After the Holocaust, the Mossad le-Aliyah Bet decided to renew its activity and to help the refugees reach the Land of Israel. They worked to bring more than 85,000 people, Holocaust survivors, from tens of ports all over Europe, to the Land of Israel. Despite the fact that the enormity of the tragedy of the Holocaust became clear, the British still did not relax their restrictions on the entrance of Holocaust survivors to the land of Israel. Most of the boats carrying survivors were caught and the passengers were deported to Cyprus. The captured immigrants often used physical force to oppose their arrest. The British sent reinforcements and more weapons and sometimes the survivors were even fired at.
1947 was the year of the greatest number of illegal immigrants. About 25,000 people arrived in the Land of Israel. Between the years 1946 and 1948, about 70,000 refugees arrived from Europe. About 5000 people came overland from different countries in the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. They entered the country using forged entry visas.

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