Altalena memorial (Nir Kafri)
A memorial to the Altalena in Tel Aviv. Photo by Nir Kafri
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Naaman Cohen is a 59-year-old history teacher from Tel Aviv. About a year and a half ago, Cohen wrote to Mayor Ron Huldai to draw his attention to the monument for the battle over the Altalena arms ship, which took place in June 1948. The memorial on the seafront promenade across from Gan London commemorates the 16 members of the Irgun who were killed when the Israel Defense Forces opened fire on the ship, which was carrying nearly 1,000 immigrants, and weapons slated for the Irgun. Cohen insists that the list of fallen be expanded to include the names of three IDF soldiers who were killed during the operation: Pesach Vlodinger, Moshe Chaim Katz and Yaakov Fried.

The fight over commemoration of the fallen in the Altalena Affair went on for years, and is documented in, among other places, a book by Udi Label entitled "The Road to the Pantheon." In Ben-Gurion's day, Irgun and Lehi operations were not accorded room in the collective memory: The remains of the Altalena were sunk. The first monument to the Altalena fatalities was erected in the cemetery in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Nahalat Yitzhak. In 1998, after much lobbying, Mayor Roni Milo agreed to install a municipal monument on the seafront, in the spirit of the Irgun and its heirs.

Once every few years somebody recollects the sheet of steel under the sea, a final remnant of the ship, and suggests bringing it up from the deep. Recently this suggestion was repeated by MK Yariv Levin (Likud). When he read about this, Naaman Cohen was reminded that nothing more has happened since the Tel Aviv municipality informed him a year ago that his letter to the mayor was passed on to the committee for street names and memorials. So he wrote to the mayor again and has just received a polite reply: His second letter has also been passed on to the names and memorials committee.