This site is dedicated to שמואל 'סמק' ינאי Shmuel 'Samek' Yanai (1925-2011) and the members of Palyam פלי"ם, Machal מח"ל מתנדבי חוץ לארץ, Bricha בריחה, Kindertransport and the Maapilim מעפילים who, despite the dangers of the voyages, the threat of physical harm and internment by the British, ran the gauntlet to Eretz Yisrael.
Haapalah העפלה and Aliyah Bet 'עלייה ב
The name haHaapalah ההעפלה comes from two sources:
1. the biblical reference..
ויעפילו לעלות אל ראש ההר
[“Charge audaciously up the mountain”]
Listen to the refrain of a song about illegal immigrants who ran the British blockade of Palestine.
Several Jewish organizations worked together, during haHa'apala ההעפלה, to facilitate immigration beyond the established quotas. As persecution of Jews intensified in Europe during the Nazi era, the urgency driving the immigration also became more acute. Those who participated in the immigration efforts consistently refused to term it "illegal", instead calling it "clandestine."
The Aliyah was also called Af Al Pi, despite all odds. With its own flag and badges, it became the national sport, with all political groups accepting and aiding the Betar Transports.
רחוב מספרים מעפילים
HaHaapalah העפלה was carried out in two phases:
1. 1934 to 1942, in an effort to rescue European Jews from the Holocaust;
2. 1945 to 1948, to find homes for displaced Jewish survivors (Sh'erit ha-Pletah שארית הפליטה, the Surviving Remnant) who were languishing in DP Camps.
During the first phase, several organizations (including Revisionists) led the effort; after World War II, 'מוסד לעלייה ב the Mossad leAliyah Bet 'מוסד לעלייה ב, "the Institute for Aliyah Bet", an arm of the Haganah הגנה, commissioned the ships.
From Aug. 1945 to May 1948, about seventy Palyamniks supported Aliyah Bet in the role of escorts - melavim - the ones who commanded Aliyah Bet ships on behalf of Mossad LeAliyah Bet 'מוסד לעלייה ב.
Post-World War II, haHaapalah העפלה journeys would typically start in the DP camps and move through one of two collection points in the American sector: Bad Reichenhall and Leipheim.
From there, the refugees, including men, women, and children, would find their way by concealed trucks, foot, train, and other means to Mediterranean ports, where ships would seek to bring them to Palestine.
More than 70,000 Jews arrived in Palestine using more than 100 boats.
The British vehemently opposed the movement, placing restrictions on movements in and out of their camps and imposing an armed naval blockade to prevent immigrants from landing in Palestine.
As soon as the ships neared the coast of Palestine, they established radio contact with their ground teams. Teams on shore would send a patrol to the seashore to wait for the boat to come into sight. They would then signal it to anchor at a specific point outside territorial waters. From the shore, motor launches, sail, and row boats, manned by the patrol, went out to the ships to unload its passengers, all under cover of night.
By morning, the passengers were safely ashore, and marched away to orange groves and forests, to hide in case they were spotted by British patrols. From there, they were dispersed to homes, safehouses, and resettlement.
On March 2, 1939, the Associated Press dispatched an article describing Constanţa as a huge refugee camp, with thousands of Palestine-bound Jews forming lines in front of travel agencies that sold tickets for fly-by-night shipping companies. This was the beginning of the so-called "coffin ships", as all the boats chartered for this purpose were rickety, unseaworthy, lacking amenities, crammed 5 to 10 times their normal capacities, and their destination was, in most cases, fatal.
This "illegal immigration", which between 1938 and 1948, transported over 125,000 Jews to Palestine illegally, that is, without entry permits issued by the British government, was called Aliyah Bet, planned, organized, and carried out by several Jewish organizations, and separate from legal immigration, called Aliyah Aleph.
The British issued a White Paper of 1938 restricting Jewish immigration to 75,000 over the following five years. In the same month, two ships were turned away, but others were able to land their passengers, many of whom were captured and interned at camps, until the quota opened.
The British blockaded the shores of Palestine with forty-five of the most modern warships they had built toward the end of World War II. The fleet was large, even by today's standards: cruisers, destroyers, mine sweepers, patrol boats which were armoured and fast. In addition, they dedicated a division of the Royal Airforce, with planes from Palestine. Cyprus, Egypt, and Malta.
The British Navy kept constant watch on Haapalah boats trying to reach Palestine. Boats were fired on as they approached the coast, some were turned back; 3 were sunk. In all, twenty-one boats completed the voyage, carrying some 15,000 refugees.
Over half were stopped by the blockade, and as many as 50,000 prisoners were sent to internment camps on Cyprus (Καράολος Karaolos near Famagusta, Nicosia, Dhekelia, and Xylotumbou), Palestine (מחנה המעפילים עתלית Atlit "Illegal" Immigrant Detention Camp), and Mauritius.
Over 1,600 drowned at sea and a few thousand managed to enter the British Mandate of Palestine.
The pivotal event in the Haapalah העפלה program was the sailing of the Exodus 1947 (5707) אקסודוס תש"ז, when British methods for stopping immigration got the public eye.
The ship was intercepted, attacked, boarded by British navy forces, and diverted back to Europe, and after significant resistance from its passengers, the refugees were once again in Germany.
As Holocaust survivors sought a way out of Europe, the British refused to allow the entry of more than a handful of Jewish immigrants into what was then British Palestine.
Unable to gain entry legally, they were smuggled into Israel via the ragtag fleet manned by volunteers.
By the time they were no longer needed, this tiny fleet had transported around 32,000 Jews into Israel.
Yehuda Bauer has estimated that approximately 15,000 illegal immigrants entered in the years 1936-9, which he broke down to 5,300 brought in by Revisionist ships, 5,000 by the Labour Zionists and 5,200 by private vessels.
The British listed 20,180 as having arrived prior to the end of the war.
William Perl, cheif organizer of the Revisionist effort, doubled that figure to more than 40,000.
Yehuda Sluzky calculated that 52,000 reached Palestine during the war, including both legal and illegal immigrants.
Boats of Haapalah העפלה
Of the ships of haHaapalah fleet, the best remembered were:
* Atzmaut עצמאות Pan Crescent פאן קרסצנט , one of the two Pans
* Kibbutz Galuyot קיבוץ גלויות Kommemiyut קוממיות Pan York פאן יורק, second of the two Pans
* Knesset Israel כנסת ישראל Lochita תנועת המרי העברי Lohita, an interesting Website about the voyage, with pictures by Shmuel Katz, is available online at "מול השער הנעול – האודיסיאה של מעפילי כנסת ישראל"
* Rafiah רפיח ΑΘΗΝΑ MV Athina את'ינה, haAmutah leHashrashat Modaut Oniyat haMaapilim Rafiah העמותה להשרשת מודעות אוניית המעפילים רפיח, was formed, which, in 2010, hosted a reunion for survivors at Mevo'ot Yam מבואות ים.
The Atlit “Illegal” Immigrant Detention Camp מחנה המעפילים עתלית is now a museum, telling the story of the struggle of Jews fleeing Europe from NAZI persecution and death, who tried to reach British controlled Palestine, only to be incarcerated in camps similar to the NAZI concentration camps of Europe.
At the Atlit “Illegal” Immigrant Detention Camp מחנה המעפילים עתלית, the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS) מחנה המעפילים עתלית, is developing BeNetivei Haapalah בנתיבי העפלה, In the pathways of the “Illegal” Immigration, a Computerized Database and Information Center to trace the 130,000 Maapilim who came to Palestine from 1934 to 1948.
To learn more, go to: BeNetivei Haapalah בנתיבי העפלה
For more information about the Atlit "Illegal" Immigrant Detention Camp,Visit their Webpage at: Atlit "Illegal" Immigrant Detention Camp @ Society for Preservation of Israel National
The Society, haAmutah leHashrashat Modaut Oniyat haMaapilim Rafiah העמותה להשרשת מודעות אוניית המעפילים רפיח, is commemorating their 2010 reunion, and the stories of the Survivors, in a documentary film, The Saga of Rafiah, the 2010 Reunion @ Mevo'ot Yam מבואות ים
To learn more. go to: haAmutah leHashrashat Modaut Oniyat haMaapilim Rafiah