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The Voyage of the Ulua, by Arie Eliav

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Review by Jerome Verlin, Author Israel 3000 Years, co-author Pressing Israel:  There are a number of quite good books on the Aliyah Bet, the Jewish people's "illegal" extraction of Holocaust survivors from Europe to their homeland of Israel in the teeth of the shameful British blockade.  Most of these books capture the passion and courage of passengers and crew.  I've read every one I could find. On page 233 of The Redeemers, Leo Schwarz wrote: "Search history and you will find nothing quite like the underground epic of 1947.... Read them well, and you will find nothing to surpass the trials and courage of the camp dwellers of Germany who marked out paths through the Alpine ranges across Europe and sailed the tiny vessels through the British blockade to reach their Promised Land."  

By me, the best of these books - and Gruber's and Patzert's and Holly's, among others, are quite good - is The Voyage of the Ulua by Arie Eliav.  It captures both the import and spirit of the movement, and some personal moments that go beyond memorable.  One scene for example:  The British get wind that the Ulua is being refitted for passengers in a French port and bring pressure on the French to block it from sailing.  The French port inspector comes aboard and challenges the captain, Eliav, about the shelving apparently for passengers.  Eliav explains the ship is bound for the Arctic to study the small fish in the food chain there and the shelves are for aquariums.  "All right," says the inspector, "Scientific expedition, free to go," adding in an undertone to Eliav, "And how much are the Jews of New York paying for this fishing expedition?"  That, and the meeting of two young sisters from two different camps, the captain's own romantic involvement, the desperate search for fuel off the hostile north African coast, etc., are moments that will stick in your memory.

 

 

 


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