Thursday, December 24, 2009

Captain of the "Exodus" Dies at Age 86

Some time ago, we noted the anniversary of the dramatic voyage of the "Exodus 1947," the ship carrying Holocaust survivors as illegal immigrants to Mandatory Palestine. The British seizure of the ship and forced relocation of the passengers to internment camps in Germany caused a scandal and helped to build international sentiment for Palestine Partition.

The Jerusalem Post reports the death of its captain, Ike Aranne, in Hadera. Born Yitzchak Aronowicz in what was then Gdansk, Aranne emigrated to Palestine at the age of 10. After sailing on various ships and then taking officer training in London, he returned in 1942 to Palestine and joined the Palyam, the new marine arm of the Palmach. The rarity of professional naval skills allowed him, despite relative lack of experience to assume his first command aboard the "Exodus."
The UK continued to hold the detainees in Cyprus until January 1949 when it formally recognized the State of Israel.

Aranne's daughter, Ella, told the AP that the experience remained a pivotal part of his life for years afterward.

"It was one of the most important things of his life. He wasn't a big storyteller, but he'd happily tell schoolchildren about it," she said.

"The Exodus influenced him and his friends deeply. Those were the days that defined them and as far as they were concerned defined the character of this country."

From 1993 until his death, he lived in a house built like a ship, with rooms in a row and a faux mast and huge windows providing a view of the Mediterranean.

He lived in the house alone since the death of his wife, Irene, in 2001.

Aranne's funeral is scheduled for Friday in northern Israel. He is survived by two daughters, seven grandchildren, and a 2-year-old great-grandson.

Update: a sampling of additional coverage

• Margalit Fox, "Yitzhak Ahronovitch, Exodus Skipper in Defiant '47 Voyage of Jewish Refugees, Dies at 86, NY Times, 23 Dec.
• Naama Lanir, "Captain of refugee ship 'Exodus' dies," Ynet, 23 Dec.

• Eli Ashkenazi, "Captain of Exodus dies at 86," Haaretz, 24 Dec.

• Ruthie Blum Leibowitz, "Leon Uris 'Exodus' novel had nothing to do with reality, skipper said," Jerusalem Post, 26 Dec.

•"Yitzhak Aharonovitch: captain of the Holocaust survivor ship Exodus," Sunday Times, 30 Dec.

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