No Titanic: One ship’s round-about journey to reach its destination
The Ship to Nowhere: On Board the Exodus
By Rona Arato
Second Story Press
Author Rona Arato reveals another ship in history’s vast ocean with a story that’s worth telling.
by Brianna Westervelt
In 1947, the ship Exodus left France carrying thousands of Jewish refugees with their eyes focused on Palestine. But as they neared their promised land, British warships attacked the boat. Several passengers were killed and many more wounded. Soon, the refugees were divided up on three ships bound for Cyprus, but they changed course at the last minute and were sent all the way back to France. For weeks, they sat in the harbor at Port-de-Bouc.
After a while, the refugees began a hunger strike to try and force the British to let them return to Palestine, making clear they would get off the boats nowhere else. Instead, after a brief stopover in Marseille, the British decided to take the Jews to Hamburg, Germany, of all places. From there, the refugees were assigned to displaced-persons camps—yes, the British sent Jews to German camps. Finally, in late 1947 the United Nations intervened and voted to divide Palestine into two states, one of which would become a home for Jewish refugees, including the passengers from the Exodus.
In this first-ever account for young readers, author Rona Arato tells the ordeal of the Exodus through the eyes of eleven-year-old Rachel Landesman, who was on board the ship with her mother and older sister. For obvious reasons, Rachel was chosen to help young readers engage with this story, as she experiences post-World War II life in Europe and the Middle East.
In an author’s note, Arato says that some of the people Rachel encounters in The Ship to Nowhere did not actually exist in history, but that they “represent the people she met on the Exodus.” That’s about as much liberty as you can take with a nonfiction book and still call it nonfiction. In the end, though, The Ship to Nowhere is true to the goal that Arato states in her preface: “By looking to the past, we can better understand the need to help people of all religions, races, and cultures who seek a new home where they can live in peace and freedom.”