• Issue: November 1964
  • Designer: M. & G. Shamir
  • Plate no.: 125
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

Great Britain's duty under the Palestine Mandate to facilitate the immigration of Jews into their National Home was soon diluted by indifference and unhelpfulness; hindrance and active hostility were afterwards to mar it.

In 1934, the first organized measures were taken to overcome these obstacles, and by 1937 thousands of Jews, mostly from Poland at first, had been brought into the country.

The White Paper of 1939, over the signature of Malcolm McDonald, then British Colonial Secretary, was the final act to halt Jewish immigration. But Jews in and outside Palestine never accepted it and immigration never stopped.

During the fourteen years of organized blockade-running until 1948 when the State of Israel was founded - some 140 ships brought uncertificated immigrants to Palestine, to the number of about 115,000: thousands had come overland through neighboring countries; the majority, about 85,000, came after World War II.

All sectors of the Jewish community in Israel took part in the operation. Volunteers traveled across Europe, organizing, gathering supplies, buying ships and sending them off. Others met ships and passengers on the shores and distributed the newcomers among settlements throughout the country. Most of the immigrants were survivors of the Holocaust in Europe; emigration to Palestine was their last hope of finding a secure haven in a welcoming Homeland.

The British did all they could to check this venture. Using coastguard vessels, warships, aircraft and radar, they blockaded the coast-line. British secret agents traveled through Europe trying to discover the hidden ships; diplomatic pressure was exerted to prevent their sailing. But in vain. With fantastic devotion and faith, ignoring the perils, crowding into ramshackle and leaky boats, exhausted, hungry and desperate, thousands of Jews grimly set out for their destination. Untrained, unarmed and outnumbered, they faced the British navy and fought it. Less than half of them succeeded in running the gauntlet. Some were detained in camps at Atlit or Sarafand; others were exiled to Mauritius. About 55,000 were sent to detention camps in Cyprus and kept there until the founding of the State. The Jewish community in the country retaliated by blowing up radar stations and forcibly preventing the identification of immigrants who got through.

The saga of the blockade-runners is an impressive chapter in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State. The self-sacrifice and dedication of all who took part in it made a vital contribution to the rebirth of an independent Commonwealth, whose gates are wide open to every Jew in the world.

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Blockade Runners Commemorative