From Chapter 5:
I was only 14 years old when the Second World War ended in 1945. I remember German airplanes dropping bombs on the Haifa refineries. I also learned about the extermination of Jews in Europe. When the war ended, I experienced the harsh day-to-day life imposed upon us by the British Government in Palestine. From the roof of our apartment building which faced the Haifa harbor I saw the arrival of refugee ships from Europe blocked by the British Navy. I saw public demonstrations in the streets against this British policy for sending Jewish refugee ships back to Europe, like the EXODUS, and for sending other survivors to a British concentration camp in Cypress.
I learned the Hebrew words of “The Song of the Jewish Partisans”.
Don't say this is our last road
To the light of day, the clouds have brightened
The day we have been waiting for will come
And our marching will declare we are here.
These words of the Jewish partisans who fought the Germans inspired me to fight the British. Such an episode was described in a report made by the Captain of the refugees ship Chaim Arlozorov which approached the shores of Haifa with 1346 immigrants in February, 1947, as it was surrounded by four British Naval Destroyers. This is how the Arlosorov Captain reported a dialogue on a loudspeaker between the ship’s Captain and the British Navy commander:
British Navy Destroyer:
Jewish refugees, you are entering the territorial waters of Palestine illegally. His Majesty’s destroyers will escort you to the island of Cypress, where you will be placed in a camp until your fate is determined.
British sailors, we are Jewish refugees returning to our homeland after a long exile and the extermination of millions of Jews by the Nazis. It is not us but you who are breaking all human laws by preventing us from entering our homeland. This is our land. It will be ours. No one will stop us.
British Navy Destroyer:
When you’ll cross the territorial waters, we’ll fire at you.
Arlozorov Captain: (To the refugees on his ship)
Brothers and sisters, in a few minutes we shall enter the waters of our homeland. You all know your duties. If we are brave, this land will be ours. No one will be able to stop us. Let us sing HATIKVA.
British Navy Destroyer:
Who is the captain of your ship? Who has placed your life in his hand?
(Arlozorov Captain Record:
There was a young 10-year old boy, who was standing near me. I called him over, took him to my room, gave him my gold-decorated Captain’s hat, gave him my binoculars and took him to the Captain’s bridge. The boy stood there all alone facing the British ship)
British sailors, look at our young captain. Because of him, and in his name, we will fight you if you fire at us.
From the Arlozorov Captain record:
The destroyer backed 100 meters and fired a warning shot. We ordered the women and the children to the bottom of the ship, and 700 men remained on the deck. The British sailors tried to board the ship under fire, but they encountered our fire back. There were many casualties on both sides, and our ship managed to pull away from the destroyers only to hit a rock and to be grounded outside the Bat-Galim shore of Haifa. All the immigrants were eventually taken to a British concentration camp in Cypress.
This episode, even though it ended with the expulsion of the refugees, generated a wave of pride among the youth of the country and inspired many to join the underground forces and to fight the British so that refugees would be allowed to enter the country. Some joined the Haganah, some joined the Lehi. I had already joined the Irgun.
The IRGUN, as it was known in the United States, was actually called "IRGUN ZT'VA'EE LE-UMI", or ETZEL for short. It means "National Military Organization." It was established by Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the World Revisionist Zionist Organization. The "Etzel" was established for the purpose of training the Jewish youth in Palestine to defend the Jewish homeland from Arab attacks and to prepare it for a revolution against the British Mandate.
After the First World War, Palestine the country was given to the British by the League of Nations with the mandate to prepare it as a homeland for the Jewish people. The Jewish community of Palestine was preparing itself in various ways for an eventual establishment of a Jewish independent state once the British army would leave the country as stated in the "Balfour Declaration" of 1921. However, the British Government eventually renounced the Balfour declaration and gave the territory east of the Jordan River to the Hashemite King Abdullah who was expelled from Saudi Arabia by the Saudi family.
The leaders of the Jewish community decided to use political means to obtain independence. However, Jabotinsky did not believe that the British would leave the country willingly. He established a "Revisionist Movement" to prepare the youth of the Jewish community to become a new generation of soldiers which would be called upon to revolt against the British if they would not leave peacefully. For that purpose, the Irgun was established as an underground fighting force, and the British Police in the country was constantly looking for its members. Many were arrested and even exiled to Africa.
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