The British set up special detention camps to hold the ma’apilim
(iilegal immigrants) that they had managed to capture – the Atlit Camp
Many Palyamniks and Aliya Bet operatives got arrested in the course of their clandestine activities. Quite often, they were detained by the British together with the ma’apilim following the interception of the Aliya
Bet vessels, and had to spend some time in the Atlit or the Cyprus camps. The detained Palyamniks (and also the foreign crew members of the vessels) didn’t typically spend much time behind these camps’
barbed wires, as various escape methods were employed to set them free and get them quickly back to active duty. A unique release operation took place on Oct. 10, 1945, when in a daring
military operation a special force of the Palmach released the entire population of detainees from the Atlit camp (Yitzhak Rabin – Israel’s 5th Prime Minister who was
assassinated on Nov. 4, 1995 - was the commander of one of the two platoons that took part in the operation).
Numerous arrests of Palyamniks and other Aliya Bet operatives were documented in various European countries, mostly in Italy and France.
The clandestine nature of the Aliya Bet enterprise often misled local law enforcement authorities to believe that they were arresting smugglers, criminals, illegal refugees, etc.
These arrests typically lasted only few days until the situations were resolved by the “good connections” that Ha’mossad Le’Aliya Bet had with
various people of power and authority in these countries. During the famous "La Spezia Affair" in March 1946, few Ha'Chavura members were arrested
for transporting the ma'apilim to the
embarkation port using "borrowed" British Army vehicles with falsified documents (see the story of Shalhevet Freier, who spent few months
in military jail before he got discharged from the British Army and sent back to Eretz Israel).
The Palyamniks were also subject to arrests as members of the illegal paramilitary force of the Palmach. In the most famous event, known in the history of Israel as “The Black
huge British forces on June 29, 1946, arrested thousands of Hagana and Palmach members (as well as many political activists, including some prominent political leaders of the Yishuv).
In this British operation, the entire force of the Palyam that was stationed at the time in Kibbutz Sdot-Yam,
as well as several Palyamniks in Kibbutz Yagur and in Maabarot, got arrested (Click here for Yehuda Ben-tzur's story of that memoriable day).
Together with many other Palmach/Hagana members who were rounded
up in the operation, they were detained in the Rafiah camp for several months. Few Palyamniks got arrested in
Cyprus for their involvement in sabotage operations against British Navy targets there (see the stories of
Yosef Rom and
Yosef Gidron (Yusuf) - the Palyam commander at the time - is being arrested during the Palmach/Palyam
operation to get the ma'apilim of the 'Shabtai Luzinski' to shore, Nitzanim Beach, March 12, 1947
Ma'apilim behind the fence of the Atlit Camp
British forces are rounding up suspected Palmach members on "Black Saturday"