The journey would not be easy for Yisrael and for the many other Jewish refugees that wanted to emigrate. The State of Israel was not established as a Jewish homeland until 1948. In 1945, immediately after the war, the British governed the area, and strictly limited immigration. As a result, many Jews took part in secret immigration, called Ha’apala . Yisrael joined a youth movement to prepare to make aliya as an “illegal” immigrant.
Yisrael traveled through Romania, Hungary, Austria, and Italy, and then set sail from Naples on a small ship with 200 other refugees. There were violent storms during the voyage, and Yisrael was afraid that the boat would not make it, but after a week they anchored in Rhodes, where everyone was transferred to a larger ship called the “Bracha Fold.” Like other similar ships, however, the “Bracha Fold” was captured by the British and all the people on board were sent to an internment camp on Cyprus in order to discourage further attempts at “illegal” immigration. Every month a specific number of Jews was released and allowed to immigrate. Yisrael spent 18 months living in Cyprus, until he was released at the end of 1947.
When he was finally released, Yisrael joined a kibbutz called Beit HaShita, where he met his future wife, another Holocaust survivor, named Bella. In 1948, Yisrael was recruited to join the newly formed Israel Defense Forces (IDF ) and participated in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Later, he left kibbutz Beit HaShita to help found the Ghetto Fighters’ kibbutz .
TESTIMONY: “FIGHTING FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE”
“…you have to fight.”