Altalena Memorial – Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel - Atlas Obscura

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Altalena Memorial

This site honors an Israeli cargo ship that was destroyed by the government in 1948. 


In May 1948, Israel declared independence and was attacked by all its neighbors and needed major supplies. A cargo ship, the Altalena, was sailing from France filled with fighters, and thousands of rifles, machine guns, and other weaponry. It was intended for the Irgun, a paramilitary group. 

However, due to prime minister David Ben Gurion’s fear of the Irgun, there was a fallout with its leader Menachem Begin. He refused to hand the weapons over to the government. In retaliation, the ship was shelled once it reached a shallow Tel Aviv beach. In that fight, 16 Irgun fighters died, as well as three IDF soldiers. The ship sank and its cargo was lost. 

The Altalena Affair remained a thorny issue in Israel’s postwar policies. The varying opinions on the situation almost brought the country to the brink of a civil war. The incident is reflected in this memorial. A small monument marks the location of the event on Tel Aviv’s promenade. 

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April 20, 2021

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