During the summer of 1946, the British Mandate government in Palestine decided to intercept the Ma’apilim, illegal immigrants, and redirect them to internment camps in Cyprus. Conditions in the camps were very difficult, especially for women and children.
JDC, a large Jewish philanthropic organization, purportedly apolitical and neutral, received permission from the British authorities to work in the camps to supplement the meager assistance provided by the British. JDC staff provided for most of the detainees’ needs, including welfare and medical aid as well as extra food rations, and educational resources. JDC staff endeavored to meet the inmates’ cultural and religious needs as well.
The talk will focus on the story of the survivors who were interned in Cyprus who were so close to entering Israel and yet unable to reach it, bringing with them both traumatic personal histories and political aspirations. At the same time, it will show how JDC functioned as a neutral organization and the role it played in the refugees’ rehabilitation.
The lecture will be followed by a presentation by Sigal Harari Zonder on the art works and crafts created by the Jewish detainees during their time in the British detention camps in Cyprus. The works, most of which were created from available material such as empty tin cans, a soft piece of limestone, and tent lines, deal with the memory of the atrocities of the Holocaust and everyday life, as well as the detainees’ yearning for homes and families and their aspirations to build a new life in the Land of Israel.