When Memory Comes
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wanted to know everything about what was going on in the political
situation of Palestine," he says. "I read everything I could find."
The moment the United Nations partitioned Palestine into Jewish
and Arab states, he wanted to go there "to fight (for a Jewish homeland),"
he says. "I thought the idea of a Jewish state was a solution."
did many young Jewish survivors in post-Holocaust Europe, Friedlander
tried to join a moderate Zionist youth movement, but it wouldn't
take him because, at 15, he was too young. He lied about his age
and joined a more militant group that was linked to the hard-core
Irgun, an underground organization that was fighting the British
mandate in Palestine.
long after David Ben-Gurion announced the formation of the State
of Israel, Friedlander sneaked away from his boarding school in
Paris and boarded an Irgun-sponsored arms-smuggling ship, the Altalena,
en route to Israel. However, as the Altalena approached Tel Aviv
on June 20, 1948 with its cache of weapons, contrary to the orders
of the newly formed Israel Defense Force, it was shelled. Twenty-two
on board the ship were killed in the assault. (Among the survivors
was Menachem Begin, who would become prime minister of Israel and
sign a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979). The destruction of the
Altalena was among the bitterest episodes in Israel's war of independence.
again survived, and he made his way to two uncles living in a small
village north of Tel Aviv. They packed him off to agricultural school
"so I could learn something useful," he says. "They told me, 'Enough
with this intellectualism. Learn a skill.'"
his thirst for knowledge about his newly adopted country was great,
and each day he would walk several miles to the nearest city to
buy a newspaper, struggling to learn Hebrew so he could read it.
"I was so enthusiastic about every little detail," he says.