May 12, 2008
Yossi Harel, Commander of Exodus, Dies at 90
Last week, a white-haired former shipmate propped a gold-fringed, pale blue flag of the legendary Exodus ship next to the coffin of its commander, Yossi Harel.
A short distance away sparkled the azure Mediterranean Sea, whose waters Harel sailed four times on clandestine journeys between 1945 and 1948. Those journeys brought a total of 24,000 Holocaust survivors to the shores of what would soon become the State of Israel.
Harel, who died April 26 of cardiac arrest at the age of 90, was remembered as a hero by his former comrades, the Jewish refugees he helped bring to Israel and the leaders of the country.
He was “modest, a brave fighter and a hero who did not seek acts of heroism,” said Shaul Biber, a fellow former Palmach fighter.
When he secretly set sail from France on the Exodus, a rickety former Chesapeake Bay steamer originally called the President Warwick, Harel could not have known that the voyage would become legendary.
The boat left on July 11, 1947, with 4,553 Jewish refugees on board and headed toward Palestine until it was intercepted by British navy vessels. The British commanders ordered that the refugees not be allowed into Palestine, then under British control, and be sent back to Europe.
But the defiant Harel and his skipper planned a daring escape from under the nose of the British destroyer that was escorting them. They shut off the ship’s lights in the dead of night and swiftly changed the ship’s course, heading for Palestine.
The British intercepted the Exodus, hitting the ship’s bow and attempting to board the boat. Passengers tried to repel the British forces by hurling potatoes and canned goods at them. A British soldier and three Jews were killed in the clashes, including an American volunteer sailor from San Francisco, before Harel ordered his passengers to surrender.
The refugees were taken to Haifa and put on ships headed back to Europe.
Among those who witnessed the dramatic scene of the refugees disembarking from the Exodus in Haifa only to be loaded onto three other ships headed back for the continent were members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine.
The officials said later that seeing the unfortunate journey of those refugees up close spurred them to push for a resolution of the question of Palestine and the Jews who wanted to make it their home.
For its role in galvanizing world opinion in favor of a Jewish state, the Exodus became known as the ship that helped launch the Jewish state.
The dimensions of its story, including the return of the refugees to Europe and their eventual landing in Germany, was covered widely by the international media. The story was mythologized in the 1958 novel “Exodus,” by Leon Uris, as well as a hit film starring Paul Newman in a loose portrayal of Harel.
For Jews and non-Jews, the book and film painted a romantic, heroic picture of the Zionist cause, doing wonders for the young state’s image.
Years later, in the Soviet Union, illegal copies of the book were circulated among young Jews, turning them into avid Zionists. Among them were the leaders of the movement to free Soviet Jews and allow their immigration to Israel.
Harel, who was 28 when he was the Exodus commander, went on to a career in the Israeli army’s intelligence corps in the early years of the state. He later went into business and reportedly also worked for the Mossad.
During a visit to Los Angeles in 1948 he met an American woman who would become his wife.
“I saw a man in uniform facing me, impressive and handsome, and I fell in love with him immediately,” Julie Harel was quoted last week by the Israeli daily, Ma’ariv. “We were married and since then we were never apart. It’s hard for me to imagine life without him.
“His life,” she said, “was interwoven with the history of the State of Israel.”
—Dina Kraft, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Two Facebook pages in his memory have been formed—attracting both those who knew him well and those who wish they’d known him better.
According to a post on one of the pages from a fellow Rutgers student: “There was a very nice gathering at Rutgers, more than 300 people showed up to remember Arieh. We did what he would have wanted… we sang some of his favorite songs. It was really beautiful. We spoke kind words of Arieh—of his time here at Rutgers. He was definitely well-liked and he will be missed.”
A classmate from New Jew wrote:
“Arieh will never be forgotten. He would do anything to make people smile. Arieh was and always will be the very essence of a mensch. He will be missed. On his senior page, Arieh wrote ‘What is right is not always what is popular, and what is popular is not always what is right.’ He lived life to the fullest, and always made sure that everyone else did, too, or at least were never left out. He always had a smile on his face, and kindness in his heart. Arieh, if you could only see the changes you inspired in people. We all love you, and miss you terribly.”
A memorial service was held Thursday afternoon at Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge.
Burial at Eden Memorial Park.
Shiva will be held at private homes in Northridge and West Hills.
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Ilona Ackerman died April 7 at 100. She is survived by her son, Dr. John. Malinow and Silverman
Minerva Arthur died April 7 at 89. She is survived by her son, Steven (Lynn Barbe); daughter, Stefanie; and sisters, Cynthia Weill and Rhoda Green. Mount Sinai
Sidney Carp died April 10 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Rita; daughter, Melanie (Art) Coble; son, Dr. Harvey (Sylvie); four grandchildren; and brother, Milton. Malinow and Silverman
Mildred Cutter died April 1 at the age of 78. She is survived by her daughters, Linda Lingle and Barbara Cutter; son, Stephen; and four grandchildren. Sholom Chapels
Helen Davidovics died April 2 at the age of 88. She is survived by her son, Saul (Rose) Elbaum. Sholom Chapels
Lester Dubin died April 8 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Pauline; son, Marc (Ila); daughters, Hali (Richard) Karr and Amy (Charles) Scottini; and four grandchildren; brother, Philip. Mount Sinai
Jeffrey Eisenberg died April 7 at 55. He is survived by his wife, Sarah; son, Jason; daughters, Anne and Elizabeth; and sister, Judith. Malinow and Silverman
Michael Entin died April 9 at 50. He is survived by his wife, Yelena; daughter, Anna Vera; mother, Sandra Marks; and brother, Richard (Dana). Mount Sinai
Robert Fried died April 6 at 61. He is survived by his sister, Karen; brother-in-law, David Bornstein; and niece, Chloe. Malinow and Silverman
Sam Futterman died April 12 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; son, Glen; daughters, Lisa and Jody; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman
Moe Gelber died April 9 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Naomi; son, Daniel (Nancy); daughter, Amy (Tim) Long; grandchildren, Rebecca and Alan Long; and sister, Date. Mount Sinai
Carolee Gennarelli died April 11 at 66. She is survived by her daughters, Gina Hoffman and Debra (Frank) Marquez; grandchildren, Lindsay Hoffman and Tyler Marquez; sister-in-law, Linda Marasa; nieces; nephews; and four grandnieces. Groman.
Judge Leonard Goldstein died April 12 at 76. He is survived by his daughters, Risa (Paul) Fowler and Bethany (Josh) Anderson; sister, Debbie (Steve) Friedland; and brothers, Dennis (Marcia) Sobol, Ed (Margie) and Gary (Jayme). Malinow and Silverman
Susan Hutson died April 7 at the age of 65. She is survived by her husband, Cliff; children, Andra Verstraete and Bruce Hoffman; brother, Barry (Enid) Friedman; and sister, Sally (William) Larson. Mount Sinai
Raquel Kaplan died April 7 at the age of 92. She is survived by her sons, Dr. O. Benjamin (Janna) and Judge Leon. Mount Sinai
Sonia Kirk died April 7 at the age of 89. She is survived by her son, Michael (Betty); and daughter, Bonnie (Richard) Polson; and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai
Blanche Koransky died April 8 at 91. She is survived by her sons, Irwin (Carol), Robert (Judy), Steven (Claudia) and Alan (Natalie); grandchildren; and great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman
Pauline Lederman died April 12 at 82. She is survived by her sons, Richard and Robert; daughter, Elyse; and seven grandchildren. Groman
Sam Login died April 11 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Margaret. Malinow and Silverman
Max Lowenstein died April 8 at 96. He is survived by his daughter, Connie Brockman. Malinow and Silverman
Adele Meltzer died April 8 at 72. She is survived by her sons, Craig and Kevin; and cousins, Muriel and Sid Eiduson. Malinow and Silverman
Victoria Rousso died April 6 at 92. She is survived by her son, Henry; and sister-in-law, Sylvia Kapon. Malinow and Silverman
Andrew Rutman died April 7 at 46. He is survived by his daughters, Nicole and Kaitlyn; father, Gilbert; mother, Roanne Rutman Coplin; brother, Michael (Kina); uncle and aunt, Max and Carole Cline; and former spouse, Felicia (Jim) Hilaski. Mount Sinai
Hannah Schwarz died April 6 at 95. She is survived by her daughter, Sandra (James) Kohn; son, Jerome; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Mount Sinai
Sheldon Shapiro died April 10 at 78. He is survived by his son, Stuart (Kimberly Herdman); and grandchildren, Benjamin and Matthew. Mount Sinai
Sophie Waters died April 8 at 95. She is survived by her children, Sheila Lawrence, Eve Caliendo and Michael. Hillside
Leonard Weil died April 7 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Janice; daughters, Susan, Marilyn (David Abelman) and Diane (Les); and son, Michael. Hillside
Pearl Winard died April 10 at 96. She is survived by her daughter, Bobbi (Joel) Scherr; son, Steve; and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai
Isadore Wolf died April 7 at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife, Delly; sons Aaron and Clark; grandchildren, Sarah and Rebekah; and sister, Barbara Simon. Sholom Chapels
Roslyn Zaslow died April 9 at 93. She is survived by her sons, Jerome (Barbara) and Louis (Karen); daughter, Beverly (Michael) Gershaney; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai