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Palestine Leaders Resting After Winning Hunger Strike for Admission of Refugees

April 18, 1946
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The fifteen Jewish leaders who went on a hunger strike last Friday to secure the admission to Palestine of the over 1,000 Jewish refugees detained at La Spezia, Italy, were worn but happy today as they rested under the care of physicians.

They ended their strike at 6 o’clock yesterday evening, after 106 hours, when High Commissioner Sir Alan Cunningham promised to admit 700 of the detained refugees under the April immigration quota and the remainder under the May quota.

The High Commissioner’s decision was conveyed to the strikers by Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog following a meeting with Sir Alan. Immediately, more than 10,000 Jewish youths gathered before the building of the Jewish National Council to enthusiastically cheer the Jewish leaders on the successful accomplishment of the strike. The crowd was addressed by some of the strikers, who called for further efforts to intensify the Jewish struggle for free immigration into Palestine.

The first meal the strikers were permitted to eat last night after their five days of self-imposed hunger consisted of a small quantity of matzohs and some milk. The previous evening they observed a foodless seder at which the youngest of them, Isaac Werfel, asked the traditional “four questions” to which all present at the table replied: “God promised Palestine not only to our fathers, but also to us and our children.” The “foodless seder” was presided over by Chief Rabbi Herzog, and Passover songs were sung by Zalman Rubashev, editor of the Hebrew daily Davar, who was one of the strikers.


Grave concern over the health of the strikers was manifested by Jews throughout Palestine. Tens of thousands of worshippers left Passover services in the synagogues on Monday and marched in their prayer shawls to the Jewish National Council building there they continued their prayers in the open, as an expression of solidarity with the strikers. They were addressed by David Remez, the oldest of the fifteen, who said: “We are not fasting here because of despair, but because of the conviction that united we shall be able to bring in all Jews desiring to come here.”

At the same time, a meeting of the strikers and members of the executive of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Council was held when word reached the Agency at noon that the Colonial Office in London had agreed to admit the La Spezia refugees, providing that their immigration visas be deducted from the quota to which the Jewish Agency is entitled.

The meeting lasted for four hours, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, as well as Eliezer Kaplan, urged that the strike be suspended as a result of the news from London. However, the strikers refused to end their fast until a definite guarantee was given by the Palestine Government that the La Spezia refugees would be admitted.

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