The Ship to Nowhere: On Board the Exodus by Rona Arato

Received from NetGalley for review.

‘The voices of thousands of people floated to us on the quay. They were singing “Hatikvah”, the Hebrew hymn of hope. It was the song the Jews sang at every emergency and in every crisis. It was their song of survival.’ – Ruth Gruber

The Ship from Nowhere tells the true story of the Exodus 1947, a ship that was filled with Jewish refugees who were trying to get to Palestine; all they wanted was somewhere they could be themselves, be Jewish and proud, be safe and free. It is part of a series of books – Holocaust Remembrance for Young Readers – and it is particularly poignant considering the current refugee crisis.

The book charts the journey of some 4,500 Jewish refugees who found themselves without a home after the end of World War II. It tells the story of a young Jewish girl, Rachel, and her mother and sister as they try to get to Palestine. Having boarded the ship in France they find themselves on a tumultuous journey towards Palestine where they face British interference, a diversion back to France, cruel threats of docking in Germany, and terrible conditions. They also find that the rest of the world rallies together for them – rebel groups, Jewish people, reporters, and various countries join forces to bring their plight to the attention of the world and to provide them with food and the offer of citizenship. Ultimately the UN voted on the creation of the State of Israel, and many Jewish refugees were finally able to feel like they had a place to call home.

The book is targeted towards younger readers and deals with serious issues in a factual but sensitive way that is easily accessible – there is a mixture of prose, pictures, and snippets of information which makes the book easy to read in terms of structure and a great starting point for discussion and study of issues regarding refugees, racism, and everything that happened in and after World War II. It’s a difficult book to read; anything that deals with these kinds of atrocities are, but it is an incredibly important one and it needs to be read. I would definitely recommend this to schools and parents, as well as anyone who cares about the world and the people in it, as it tackles a tragic part of our history (and sadly our present) very well.

My overwhelming feeling whilst reading this book was one of hope. I will always hold onto hope when I read about horrific events as there are always people who want to help; never enough, never everyone, but always some. The Jewish people have faced terrible prejudice and persecution throughout history, and the events that happened in 1947 were no different. The British government did not want any refugees entering Palestine, which they claimed as their territory, but the goodness of people and the hope and bravery of the refugees ultimately won out. It amazes me how history is now repeating itself; how can we not offer help to those who need us? Those without homes or even countries? There is room on this planet for everyone, and we have a duty as caring, thinking beings to make sure no one goes without. I can only hope that goodness will win in the end and history will stop repeating itself in such terrible ways.

‘Look at the stars. So many. It is such a big universe and all we are asking for is a tiny piece of land where we feel safe and secure.’

Read: September 20th-24th 2016

5/5 stars

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