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.