American Teens Board ‘exodus’ for Recreation of Historic Voyage

They have seen the movie and read the book.

Now 600 North American teen-agers will have the opportunity to learn about the famed Aliyah Bet ship “Exodus” from its original captain.

Ike Aharonvich, the man who dared challenge the British blockade of then-Palestine, was scheduled to be on hand when the teens board a ship bound for Israel this weekend.

The teens represented a variety of youth groups including Young Judea, National Federation of Temple Youth, Habonim and United Synagogue Youth. They were scheduled to attend workshops and seminars related to Aliyah Bet — the illegal immigration of Jews to Israel before it became a state. During the three-day trip from Brindisi, Italy, to Israel, Aharonvich and other crew members will describe their stand-off with the British Navy.

The brainchild of Uzi Narkiss, former head of the North American delegation of the World Zionist Organization, the trip was designed to bring American youth closer to their Jewish roots.

Ehud Prawer, a Jewish Agency emissary, called the program “a unique way to show American youth the history of Israel’s creation.

“American Jews have a number of means to teach the Holocaust. Museums and programs are reaching out to Jews and non-Jews,” he said.

But unfortunately, he said, “there is no real, strong, effective means to show the creation of Israel. There is a need to deal with the history that brought us to the creation of Israel.”

Noting that the program “Project Exodus,” will take place on a ship with two swimming pools and air-conditioning, Prawer said, “We didn’t use the notion of recreation when we publicized the trip. Rather, it is a sea journey to relive history.”

Instead of subjecting the teens to the overcrowding and substandard conditions that characterized actual Aliyah Bet voyages in the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish Agency-WZO “wants the kids to enjoy the trip, the sundecks and the dancing and singing — everything that is done in a group camp,” said Prawer.

“In a sense, this is a floating summer camp. It has been shown that kids learn best when a program combines enjoyment and learning. We hope to strike this balance on the ‘Exodus ’94.’”

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