Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Israel News

The Altalena Affair, on Film

A battle pitting Jews against Jews during the Israel War of Independence is the subject of a new historical drama that aired recently on Israeli television.

DEFINING MOMENT: A film that tells the story of the ship Altalena was recently aired on Israeli television.

“Altalena,” set during a cease-fire in the war, tells the real-life story of the titular ship — a vessel bringing contraband weapons and nearly 1,000 Jewish immigrants to the newly declared State of Israel. In one of the pivotal clashes of the period, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered soldiers of the freshly formed Israel Defense Forces to fire not on Arabs fighters, but on fellow Jews — those smuggling weapons into the country on behalf of the Irgun, a Zionist faction led by Menachem Begin, who years later would become prime minister. Following a standoff in the waters off central Israel, the Altalena sailed south toward Tel Aviv, where the battle erupted. Though the battle left 19 dead, it set the precedent that a single leadership would wield authority and arms in the new country.

Invoked in recent years as the sort of formative episode yet to occur in Palestinian society — where Fatah and Hamas currently fight for control — the Altalena Affair is now considered one of the key moments in the consolidation of the new Jewish state. Playing Begin and Ben-Gurion in the film, respectively, are stage actors Yoram Hattab and Yossi Kantz. The latter previously portrayed Ben-Gurion in “It’s Now or Never,” a 2005 TV movie about the fateful United Nations vote partitioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish homelands.

Currently offered on demand by Israel’s HOT cable company, “Altalena” will also air on regular broadcast television in Israel later this year.

Engage

  • Events

    Haart to Haart

    Virtual

    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.