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Purity of Arms

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Eddie Abadi  E-mail

abadi-edwardMy father, Eddie Abadi's Aliyah Bet chronicles: All through my childhood and as far back as I can remember, I used to force my father to tell me more and more about Aliyah Bet and his many adventures. He never knew where to begin because he had so much to tell and each time he would add new details to his unfinished stories. His brother sent him a computer from Colombia in order ot put down his memoirs in writing and he began to write down one page when he became sick and could not continue,

Eddie's parents' background is rooted in Jerusalem. His father Jacob was a merchant from Aleppo, Syria, who moved to Jerusalem and had a little shop in the Old City selling fabrics. His mother, Reina, was a native Jerusalemite. Her brother Moshe Mizrachi, together with his sons, built the Edison Theater, Orion and Orna Cinemas. Eddie's parents were forced to flee Palestine to avoid the Turkish Army draft. They moved to England, the USA (where my father was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 5th March 1924) and finally to Panama. The Abadi family numbered 11 children. Eddie, the eighth child, was sent to boarding school in Manchester, England. He and his four brother spent five years there.

Eddie volunteered for the US Army as soon as he was 18 years old. He was the first American in the Canal Zone to do so. Studying military engineering at the Stanford University he became friendly with some Zionists there. The Army shipped him to New Guinea and the Philippines in order to fight the Japanese. He filled his duffel bag with books about Zionism and Marxism. When he was discharged after World War II he made his intentions clear to his family that he intended to make Aliyah. His family ws not pleased with this as they wanted him to go into business with them, together with his ten brothers and sisters. He decided to volunteer for the refugee effort. In Autumn 1946, after becoming a member of the Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movement and spending time at the movement training farm in New Jersey, Eddie, then 23, boarded the "Northland" (later renamed "The Jewish State") in Baltimore.

He was trained by a drunken captain, first and second mates who were Communists, and an American Indian third mate (nobody else would hire them). He was one of about 250 Americans who assisted in the illegal Aliyah Bet immigration prior to the establishment of the Jewish State. He spent a year as bosun on the refugee ship that was sponsored by the Mosad for Aliyah Bet. Eddie helped pilot the ship into the Dardanelles to pick up over 2,000 refugeee at Burgas, Bulgaria. The first mate did not want to steer the ship which was an icebreaker, heavy with a wheel that was hard to handle, so Eddie ended up at th wheel. As the ship emerged into the Mediterranean, it was followed by four British warships equipped with side decks for boarding. The British prepared to board "The Jewish State" when it was still in international waters and far from the coast of Palestine. Their four large warships surrounded the little icebreaker and Eddie found himself at the wheel maneuvering to hard left and hard right until he managed to collide with one of te ships, which crinkled like tin before the heavily plated former icebreaker. The British ship was so seriously disabled that she went through repairs for six months. The battle turned into a race towards the shore. Finally, marines from one of the ships succeeded in boarding "The Jewish State" and to throw tear gas grenades. One person was killed. All the deck hands changed their clothing and mingled with the refugees. The British were handing down ten year sentences for refugee smuggling at that time. The British began evacuating the 2,700 refugees back to Cyprus. A shu-shu (slang for Haganah member) who could hardly speak English asked Eddie if he wanted help to escape. After agreeing, he was asked to wait for him in the sub-deck. After agreeing, he was asked to wait for him on the sub-deck. While waiting with some other men in the dark, the door was suddenly locked. There were about ten men stuck in a dark, stinky water tank together with Eddie, who suffered from claustrophobia! They were locked there for 25 hours. When they were freed they stumbled into the sunlight facing a British Naval officer. Eddie said he almost had a heart attack. But when the officer asked them if it was awfully bad down there he realized that the officer was on their side.

They exchanged clothes with cleaning workers and holding brooms in their hands they walked past the British guards and out of the port. After Eddie's escape from the British he received a false Identity Card with an Israeli name and was warned not to speak a word of English. The only thin he learned to say in Hebrew was "Ani lo medaber anglit" (I don't speak English), hoping the conversation would stop at that point. Together with his fighter pilot brother Mike they managed to bluff their way past the blockade of Jeusalem and hide from the British with friends of the family. Later on he married one of their daughters, Adina, from his safe-house family.

Eventually Eddie returned to Panama where I, his only daughter, was born. Later, my family moved to the USA and then back to Israel. My father volunteered during the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, and drove an ambulance.

Source: Written by his daughter, Smadar Rina Erez for the Palyam website (www.palyam.net)