On July 11, 1947, the SS Exodus began its journey. Some of the passengers never made it home to the land they dreamed would be theirs. The British stopped the Exodus and refused to let the refugees of Nazi Germany disembark in Palestine. By force, all were sent back to Germany. For most of these Holocaust survivors, there was no worse place on earth, no more devastating end to the journey they’d hoped would end in their finding their peace, in their piece of the earth.
Today, another Exodus story occurred. Yesterday, 229 Jews left the United States on a special flight organized by Nefesh b’Nefesh and the State of Israel. Of those on board, 99 were children. There were 38 families – and 59 singles. The oldest person on the flight is 86 years old, the youngest, only 6 months old. No one stopped them before they could touch down on Israeli soil. They didn’t meet British troops who stopped them; but Israeli soldiers who welcomed them. Government officials praised them; people sang and laughed and cried in joy.
Sixty-five years ago, more than four thousand Jews tasted the bitterness of defeat; it would take some of them years to finally come to Israel, and some never did. Today, our joy is there for all the world to see. The ceremony at the airport, attended by thousands, ended as it always does, with the singing of Hatikva – Israel’s national anthem – The Hope. We have fulfilled the dream of those on the Exodus – to be a free people in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Welcome home to our newest citizens – may the bravery and the yearning to be free that was within the passengers aboard the Exodus remain as a shining light as you make your way into this land.
Welcome to Israel – a land like no other.