Saturday, February 4, 2012

Living in “In spite of it all” street by Marina Shemesh

My street name is called Af Al Pi Chen - a bit strange sounding, I agree. Especially when you say it out loud.

What is even more strange, is that Af Al Pi Chen is Hebrew for “In spite of it all”. Sometimes it is translated as "nevertheless", "nonetheless" or "notwithstanding".

Quite an odd name for a street, isn’t it? I keep telling you that the Holy land is an unusual place!

We even have street names that seem to be more suitable for the table of contents of a self-help book. In spite of you being a scaredy cat, extremely ugly or as thin as a spaghetti  stick– you CAN do it, man!
I can even image a sentence in the biography of an rock star saying something like:
Notwithstanding my frequent drug abuse, I still managed to make beautiful music” ….:)

But here, in my little corner of little Israel an entire STREET is called In spite of it all. Israeli can be quite tough, so the street did not get its name to encourage timid house dwellers to get outside into the big bad world.

No, my street is named after a ship.

 A ship!
Yeah, I am sure that you did not see that one coming, did you!

The Af Al Pi Chen was one of several ships that the Israelis bought to smuggle Jews out of Nazi Europe to Israel. The British, who were controlling Israel as that time, however did not allow these ships to disembark in Israel.  Some managed to sneak past but often they impounded and the passengers send to detention camps or back to Europe.

One of the more well-known ships, the Exodus was turned back by British military ships just before the Af Al Pi Chen was supposed to sail to Israel. And that is how the ship the Af Al Pi Chen got its name.

 In spite of the Exodus being blocked from reaching Israel, in spite of the ship being an old third-hand ship, in spite of its war-traumatized passengers, in spite of the British war ships patrolling Israeli waters, the ship set sail for Israel.

The Af Al Pi Chen, together with 116 other ships and boats managed to bring 100,000 Jewish refugees to Israel from 1934 to 1948 in operations that were known as Aliyah Bet. The Af Al Pi Chen is the only one that has survived. A few of these ships sank, together with its passengers. One was torpedoed by a U-boat and only one person survived.

Now that I think of it, In spite of it all, is a great name for a street. It sounds cool, people definitely remember it and it is kinda of like, you know,.. encouraging.  Those passengers and crew had everything against them and still they got on that ship and sailed to Israel.

Some of them made it, many did not - but at least they tried. They did SOMETHING, even though the odds were stacked so highly against them.

I feel honored to live in this street that was called after a ship filled with all those courageous people.

The Af Al Pi Chen has been turned into a museum and is parked near the entrance of Haifa. I have not visited it, but now that I know of its history I will definitely go and pay it my respects.
All of the streets in my neighborhood are called after ships that smuggled refugees to Israel. 

All the passengers of the Egoz drowned.

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