How Italy Became a Stop for Holocaust Survivors on the Way to Palestine

In the aftermath of World War II, some 70,000 Jewish refugees streamed into Italy; most wished not to settle there but to journey onward to the Land of Israel. The British government there, however, barred Jewish immigration, leading the Haganah to arrange a variety of efforts to smuggle people into the country. Rosie Whitehouse describes what happened to one group of survivors:

[A] children’s home in Selvino in the mountains above the city of Bergamo [in Lombardy]—a former holiday camp that had been built for the children of Italy’s fascist elite—was run by Jewish soldiers from Palestine who had fought in the British army. After the liberation of Milan, the members of the Jewish Brigade and the engineering unit Solel Boneh, who had fought in Italy as part of the Allied forces, devoted their energies to helping the survivors rebuild their lives and start a new life in Palestine.

The hub of the operation was a few minutes’ walk from Milan’s magnificent cathedral at via dell’Unione 5. The grand 16th-century Palazzo Erba Odescalchi, a former billet for fascist militias, was turned into a reception center to help the local Jewish community put their lives back together. It would soon become the pulsating heart of [efforts to smuggle Jews into Palestine] . . . Over 35,000 survivors passed through its doors. . . . Their hopes rested on Yehudah Arazi, a Haganah secret agent who had been sent by the Jewish Agency to help bring the survivors to Palestine. His headquarters was a secret camp outside the city of Magenta, west of Milan. . . . Today, even though the house [that served as Arazi’s headquarters] is still known as the La Casetta di Ebrei, the little Jewish house, most of the locals have no idea why. . ..

The story of how thousands of Holocaust survivors were both cared for and then spirited out of Italy on illegal immigrant ships was largely forgotten when it became inconvenient for the pro-Palestinian left in Italy to remember the help that they had given [to Zionist efforts] to ship people and arms to Palestine. The story of the weapons that were hidden in the fields around the villa is not something the left is yet ready to discuss, but the story of the Jewish refugees and the help they were given is suddenly politically useful. It is a stick with which the Italian left can beat the Italian right, which campaigns against the illegal migrants who have flooded into the country in recent years.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Aliyah, History & Ideas, Holocaust survivors, Italy, Zionism


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria