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WATCH: When Making Aliyah Was Not Easy

I watched a movie with some people the other night. But not just any movie and not just any people.

reuven-and-hedva-gil
Hedva and Reuven Gil

The film is called “The Illegals” and it was made by a man called Meyer Levin. Its safe to say that this film, while itself not being well known, became the basis for the story of Leon Uris’s Exodus and has had a massive effect on Israeli cinema. There are some simply amazing scenes, like refugee Jews riding in the SAME boxcars that had been used to take them to the death camps. I don’t want to go all text heavy on you, read Ha’aretz for that.

Jewish Displaced Persons (DP) Camp - Kibbutz Buchenwald
Jewish Displaced Persons (DP) Camp – Kibbutz Buchenwald
Murray Greenfield
Murray Greenfield

I was watching the movie with three amazing people. I’ve written about Murray Greenfield before: he’s a living legend. Joining us were Hedva and Reuven Gil, a couple who share the same story as that shown in the film. They travelled across post war Europe illegally crossing numerous borders all the way from Poland to Italy. It was the Jewish Agency that helped Jews make this perilous journey across Europe. It took them two years. Two years of moving, and stopping and moving and stopping.

At one point in the film the refugees trudge through the snow to arrive at a mountain lodge. Hedge and Ruven recognised that exact lodge and recounted how they’d spent a day waiting there with no real food but with some chocolate.  In Italy they were picked up on the ship Hatikva which Murray Greenfield had spent a year procuring and making ready for this voyage. They weren’t a couple when they started the trip but they were when they finished.

The movie is the second video, before that I’ve put a video of Murray Greenfield and Hedva and Reuven giving some personal recollections.

The full movie, The Illegals.

Hedva Gil wrote a poem for Murray which is included in Murray’s book, The Secret Fleet of the Jews.

3-hedva-gil-poem-thanking-murray

And it just so happens today is Murray’s 90th Birthday. He just got back from a surprise trip with his entire (large) family to Cyprus. I’m not sure who thought it was such a great idea to visit the place where the British imprisoned him, but he loved going back there!

We all miss his wife, Hana Greenfield, a great woman who passed away a couple of years ago but who changed the nature of Holocaust education in her native Czechoslovakia. She had survived the camps and met Murray when he helped rescue her.

Heroes existed back then and all of these people: the survivors and helpers who didn’t just survive but fought massive adversity to get to Israel and then build it into what it is today. We can be incredibly proud of what was achieved and we can continue achieving great things here.

The full text of the poem:

The children of
Israel wandered for
forty years in the
desert after they had
gone out of Egypt.
Then no one survived
who could remember
the fleshpots of Egypt,
the passage of the
Red Sea or how Moshe
stretched out his hand
and divided it. Only the
second generation
entered the Promised
Land.

We are most fortunate –
forty years have passed
since we left the Diaspora.
All these years we
have lived in the Promised
Land with our children
and grandchildren. We
recollect not only the
horror’s of the Diaspora’s
Holocaust, we remember
also those wonderful
people who stretched
out their hands and
divided the sea for us,
who gave us the Hope – התקוה

More than that we
can express our
thanks and assure
you that our children
and grandchildren
know and appreciate
your pioneer spirit
and good will, which
made you volunteer
for the Aliya Bet ships.

Forty years have
passed since our Exodus
and we did not cross the
sea on dry ground, but
we have survived and
live in the Promised Land
with our children and
grandchildren.

Thank you for
bringing us here,

The Maapilim from “Hatikva”
July 1987

About the author

Picture of Brian of London

Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.
Picture of Brian of London

Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian is an indigenous rights activist fighting for indigenous people who’ve returned to their ancestral homelands and built great things.
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