The Altalena: The Ship That Almost Sank Israel

Israel in 1948 faced many threats, but one of the defining moments of the War of Independence came not from Israel’s Arab neighbors, but from an internal threat that almost led to civil war. We’re talking about the Altalena affair.

This event, which has gone down in infamy and the effects of which still reverberate through Israeli society to this day, pitted two of Israel’s greatest leaders – David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin – against each other in a power struggle the likes of which had never been seen before.

Once it was over, both sides would bury their dead, the Israeli army would finally be unified and Israeli society would be left asking important questions about the very fabric of its being.

This is a story that could so easily have ended differently. But could it – and should it – have been avoided altogether. Did the affair strengthen Israeli society, or did it bring about divisions that remain today? Could Israel descend into civil war again?

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