This is a video entitled “Special Refugees Arriving at Haifa” which was produced in 1946. The video documents the arrival in Haifa port of two ships, the Dov Hoz and the Eliyahu Golomb, from the La Spezia port in Italy. Their arrival was the result of a highly publicised protest, including a hunger strike, against the immigration restrictions imposed by the British Mandate authorities by Holocaust survivors looking to immigrate to Israel. The events surrounding the journey of the Dov Hoz and the Eliyahu Golomb from La Spezia to Haifa are known as the La Spezia Affair.
The Israeli flag is shown flying on the mast of the ship. Smiling passengers, many dressed in fancy clothing, are waving enthusiastically. Small boats bring the immigrants in from the ships, and British policemen are standing on the platform helping them. The immigrants are greeted by nurses and by public figures including the chairman of the National Committee, David Remez, the head of the Immigration Department, Eliyahu Dobkin, and the head of the Political Department of the Histadrut, Golda Meir. The video shows buses waiting to take the immigrants to their new homes and then moves to their arrival in their new community, where children are waving and greeting them and a procession is held in their honour.
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The La Spezia Affair – At a time when Jews were trying to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe and, later, Holocaust survivors were desperate to reach their homeland, Jewish immigration to pre-state Israel was severely limited by the British. In May 1946, the Dov Hoz docked in La Spezia, Italy to bring refugees to Haifa. The British forces in Italy prevented the ship from sailing. The standoff between the British and the Holocaust survivors, which included a hunger strike, was widely reported in Italy and around the world with the survivors receiving much sympathy and support. Diplomatic negotiations between the British, the Italians, and the Jewish Agency led to an agreement allowing the Dov Hoz and an additional ship, the Eliyahu Golomb, to bring over 1,000 refugees to Israel. The ships landed in Haifa on May 13, 1946. They were greeted by British soldiers and by leaders and members of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in pre-state Israel).
The Illegal Immigration – The Illegal immigration, also known as the Aliya Bet or the Ha’apala, was the immigration attempt by Jews looking to escape Nazi-occupied Europe and, later, by Holocaust survivors. During the years of the British Mandate, the authorities only allowed a small number of Jewish immigrants so as not to harm, they claimed, the delicate coexistence between the Jews and Arabs in the country. The urgency to find a safe haven for the European Jews drove immigration beyond the British quotas. The Ha’apala often started off in the DP (displaced persons) camps and brought the refugees secretly by truck, train, or even on foot to ports on the Mediterranean Sea. Ships, very often old and barely seaworthy, waited in the ports for the refugees. The voyages were difficult, since the old ships usually carried many more people than they could contain. Their goal was to arrive in Israel without being detected by t British patrols. A few ships managed to arrive to the Israeli shore, where the refugees disembarked secretly in the middle of the night and volunteers took them to nearby Jewish villages. Over 100,000 people attempted to enter Israel illegally in this way. There were 142 voyages on 120 ships, the most famous being the Exodus, the Patria, and the Struma. Over half of these were stopped by the British and sent to detention camps in Atlit in Israel and later in Cyprus.