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Exodus: What Really Happened June 30, 2007

Posted by infidelkafirwatch in Uncategorized.
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When the tale of Jewish illegal immigrants sailing for Palestine was turned into a bestselling book and film, it came to symbolise the birth of a nation. But was the story true? Sixty years on, Linda Grant separates fact from fiction

Saturday June 30, 2007

On the terrace of an Italian restaurant in a small town in central Israel, two men have had a good lunch and, over coffee, start to reminisce about events 60 years earlier. “Remember how we nearly missed the ship because I couldn’t find the ticket to get my cleaning out of the Chinese laundry?” one says. “And that trip we tried to take to Montreal until we got a message to go back to Baltimore?” says the other. The memories come flooding back: of the crew member who turned up at the pier in a chauffeur-driven limo, dressed in a captain’s suit; the ship’s chef who gave up a radio cookery show to join the voyage.

The other diners are oblivious to the identity of the frail old man who lights yet another cigarette and then fixes the listener, his friend Avi Livney, with piercing eyes. He is 83-year-old Ike Aronowitz, former captain of the illegal immigrant ship Exodus. Who would recognise him? He is known to the world in an entirely different incarnation: as the blond, blue-eyed Paul Newman, who played Aronowitz in Otto Preminger’s 1960 film Exodus, based on Leon Uris’s blockbuster novel of the same name.

Both film and book tell the story of the postwar illegal immigration ships bearing a human cargo of Holocaust survivors who tried to break the British blockade of Palestine in the last days of the Mandate. It was an incident that would become part of the founding mythology of Israel, legendary because the fictionalised account came to symbolise the birth of a nation and generated international sympathy and support. But it was a fairy tale. In Uris’s version, the Jewish refugees, stranded on Cyprus, are saved by a sympathetic British general who convinces the British government to allow the ship to land. In real life, the British army boarded, killed three people, loaded the passengers on to prison ships and took them back to Hamburg. When Uris was researching his novel in 1956, he interviewed Aronowitz, who was unimpressed by his credentials: “I told him: you’re a great writer of bestsellers, but for history you’re the wrong guy. He was very offended.”

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