63 years after its sinking, the Israeli government will soon be undertaking an endeavor to locate the remains of the Altalena ship.
The Altalena was a ship belonging to the Zionist paramilitary group Etzel, which operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948 and was commanded by Menachem Begin who would later become Israel’s Prime Minister.
After the British Mandate of Palestine came to an end and the State of Israel was established, all military organizations were intended to be absorbed into the newly created IDF. The Etzel continued to be active in Jerusalem which was outside the IDF's area of activity at the time, but said that it did not intend to compete with the IDF.
The Altalena ship carried direly needed weapons and fighters to the newly formed state.
David Ben Gurion believed the arms were intended to rebel against his government. By his orders, the ship was fired upon as it reached Israel’s shores by a military unit commanded by Yitzchak Rabin. IDF forces killed 10 of the Etzel fighters after they had jumped ship, unarmed, despite the fact that they flew the white flag.
Despite this, Menachem Begin did not allow his men to shoot back, thus preventing civil war.
The ship was later sunk on June 22, 1948, on orders by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and the story was barely mentioned in the educational systems history texts.
Now, the Israeli government, together with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, will be searching for the ship’s remains, retrieving them from underwater, and will be establishing a monument for those who died on the ship.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) addressed this project on Friday, during a special ceremony marking the anniversary of the sinking of the Altalena ship.
For the past five years on the anniversary of its sinking, Danon has sailed out to the place where the Altalena had landed prior to being fired upon. This year he was accompanied by dozens of Etzel veterans and by members of Likud Youth. During the ceremony Danon promised to make every effort to bring the remains of the Altalena during the current government’s term.
(Photo courtesy of public relations)
“[Bringing the remains of the Altalena] is bringing back all of our Jewish history,” Danon said. “Israel’s strength is measured first and foremost by the historical recognition of those events due to which we are sitting here in our country with true pride.”
He added that the efforts to pull the remains of the Altalena from the sea and to establish a monument to the fallen will continue in full swing. He said that the ceremony that was held last week in memory of the Altalena’s victims is only the beginning of a historical decision taken up by the government of Israel.
In memory of the victims, Danon later threw a bouquet into the water on the spot where the Altalena had landed.