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“Kaniuk portrays an ugly episode in history and provides much-needed historical depth to contemporary political debates.” Publishers Weekly
Commander of the Exodus
978-0-8021-3808-8 • $13.00 • Paperback • May 2001
Hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most inventive, brilliant novelists in the Western world,” internationally renowned Israeli writer Yoram Kaniuk turns his hand to biography to bring us his most important work yet. Commander of the Exodus animates the life of Yossi Harel, a modern-day Moses who defied the blockade of the British Mandate to deliver more than 24,000 displaced Holocaust survivors to Palestine when the rest of the world closed its doors.
Of the four expeditions commanded by Harel between 1946 and 1948, the voyage of the Exodus left the deepest impression on public consciousness, quickly becoming a beacon for Zionism and a symbol to all that neither guns, cannons, nor warships could stand in the way of the human need for a home. On July 18, 1947, a rickety ship carrying nearly 4,500 Holocaust survivors approached the Haifa harbor and was attacked by a British navy intent on keeping the refugees out of Palestine. Kaniuk’s hair-raising reconstruction of the ludicrous battle that ensued between ten polished warships and a dilapidated junkheap unfolds with the dramatic intensity of a biblical tale.
With grace and sensitivity, Kaniuk shows the human face of history. He pays homage to the young Israeli who was motivated not by politics or personal glory, but by the pleading eyes of the orphaned children languishing on the shores of Europe. Commander of the Exodus is both an unforgettable tribute to the heroism of the dispossessed and a rich evocation of the vision and daring of a man who took it upon himself to reverse the course of history.
“The State of Israel was not established on May 15, 1948, when the official declaration was made at Tel Aviv Museum. It was born nearly a year earlier on July 18, 1947, when a battered and stricken American ship called President Warfield, whose name was changed to Exodus, entered the port of Haifa with its loudspeakers blaring the strains of ‘Hatikva.’ The State of Israel came into existence before it acquired a name, when its gates were locked to Jews, when the British fought against survivors of the Holocaust. It came into existence when its shores were blockaded against those for whom the state was eventually designated.” excerpt from Commander of the Exodus