President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday met at his residence with 12 passengers who traveled on the Exodus, marking seven decades since the ship’s iconic voyage to the Land of Israel.
Speaking with the President was Yitzhak Rosman, son of the late Mordechai Rosman, leader of the passengers seeking entry, and Dr. Zvi Hatkevitz, who presented the President with a copy of the diary written by his father, David Hatkevitz, aboard the Exodus.
“The Exodus is a symbol,” began the President, and added, “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.”
“This was a decisive event leading up to the UN decision taken on November 29, 1947. 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,” said President Rivlin.
He continued, “I remember the terrible shock that gripped the entire Yishuv (Jewish community) when you boarded the three ships to be taken back to the catastrophe.”
Speaking to the passengers as well as their second, third, and fourth generation descendants who attended the meeting, the President said, “I am fortunate as President of the State of Israel to record with you and your families that the State of Israel, and the flag of Israel, are obvious facts.”
Dr. Zvi Hatkevitz told the President, “Seventy 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,” Hatkevitz continued. “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. 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.”
Yitzhak Rosman said, “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.”
Rosman added, “The story of the Exodus must not be forgotten. 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.”
Rosman noted, “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.”