Under This Blazing Light

"Under This Blazing Light"

Raising the makeshift ink flag in Eilat, March 1948 (The Cabor Archives, Lavon Institute)

"You must follow my route. It is the only one for the Jewish people, for the Jewish people's fate lies in its own hands." Abba Naor wrote these words in a letter to his father upon leaving for Palestine three months after being liberated from Dachau. Abba Naor was one of nearly 70,000 Holocaust survivors who arrived prior to May 1948 in what was then Palestine. With the establishment of the State and until 1951, an additional 300,000 Holocaust survivors came to Israel as part of the massive aliyah wave. A black-and-white photograph of Abba Naor alongside a copy of his letter to his father introduce the exhibition, "Under This Blazing Light: Holocaust Survivors in Israel: The First Decade." The exhibition is located in Yad Vashem's Art Museum.

The exhibition, which consists primarily of old photographs, posters, artifacts, a documentary film and audiovisual presentations, takes the visitor back in time, starting from 1945, to the birth and first steps of the State. The exhibition conveys the atmosphere and feeling in Eretz Yisrael at that time. Several thematic sections portray the survivors' various experiences from the moment of their embarkation to Israel: the arrival, the search for missing relatives, the War of Independence, the settling of the land, Youth Aliyah and also, the new Israeli culture and the commemoration of the Holocaust.

Walking away from the exhibition area one cannot stop thinking of how these people, who went through hell, had the energy, strength and will to return to life and to live, learn, fight and act towards the establishment and building of the State of Israel.

"Under This Blazing Light"

Haifa Port, November 1947 (The JNF Archives)

The inscription "The Door to the Land Opens from Within" appears atop a round bulletin board, whose surface is covered by posters of the time. A poster signed by the Union of Hebrew Workers in Eretz Israel dated May 1, 1945 depicts men and women, their clothes marked with the yellow star, walking away from a camp shaped in the form of a swastika. The poster reads "Aliyah and redemption in the homeland."

Search Bureau for Missing Relatives
The Jewish Agency's Search Bureau for Missing Relatives, which was established in 1945, assisted survivors and Israel's pre-war residents of European extraction in the search for their families via special radio broadcasts. Three old wooden radios and an assortment of handwritten letters dated around 1945 illustrate the survivors' efforts at tracing their missing relatives - efforts which were only too seldom successful.

"Under This Blazing Light"

Many survivors suppressed their life stories for years, while others spoke of their experiences immediately and were engaged in shaping the memory of the Holocaust in Israel. In 1953 the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance-Yad Vashem Law was passed. The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, established by law in 1959, was the result of the survivors' initiative and effort.

"Under This Blazing Light"

Temporary neighborhood for immigrants in the Negev, January 1952 (The Central Zionist Archives)

Holocaust survivors settled throughout the country. Some were helped by relatives, some joined kibbutzim and moshavim, and some lived in cramped transit camps. There were those who, with great organizational capacity and initiative, started new agricultural settlements that gave rise to dozens of moshavim, creating a new unrecognizable Israeli landscape in a short period of time.

"Under This Blazing Light"

Srulik, the most well-known Israeli cartoon, was created by a Holocaust survivor, Gardos Kariel Dos.

"Yehudi, Daber Ivrit" -"Jew, Speak Hebrew"
The reconstructed public notice boards of the 50s exemplify the cultural pluralism and mutual influence between those already living in Israel and recent arrivals. From the moment of arrival, immigrants integrated into the local spheres of politics, culture, security, arts and entertainment, and participated in shaping the new Israeli identity. A Council for Culture, established in 1952, worked for legislation of the Language Instruction Law.

The Whole Nation is the Army
Many myths surround the recruitment of Holocaust survivors to the war effort. The most famous myth is that of Holocaust survivors who had just disembarked from the ships and were sent off, strangers and estranged as they were, to the battlefields of Latrun, where they fell nameless. In actuality, out of a total of 43 casualties that fell in the Latrun battle, 15 were Holocaust survivors. Holocaust survivors constituted about half of the fighting force in the second phase of the war that started on May 15, 1948, a day after the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel.

Copyright 2004 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority