Aliyah Bet & Machal Virtual Museum



Ruth Gruber in 2007

By Daniel Fliegler

‘If a tree fell in the forest and no one heard it did it really fall?’ a proverb

Ruth Gruber, a trailblazing journalist, author and humanitarian passed away on November 17, 2016. She was 105 years old.

Her earliest encounter with Holocaust survivors was in 1944, when she escorted 1000 refugees from Europe to the United States. Ruth Gruber in her own way was a key member of Americans who helped in the establishment of the State of Israel, despite the fact that she was not a military volunteer in the struggle for independence. As a reporter and a photographer, Ruth gave a voice and an image to many important events in Israel’s struggle for independence thus influencing them and hastening independence.

In 1947, the New York Herald assigned Ruth to cover the Aliya Bet Ship Exodus 1947 as it made its journey to Haifa. It was a converted pleasure boat carrying 4500 Jewish refugees to Palestine defying the British naval blockade. Ruth witnessed the Exodus being escorted to Haifa by British naval boats after they had rammed her causing severe damage to her hull. She then flew to Cyprus to witness the refugees being interned there. However, this time the British decided to ship the refugees to Port de Bouc, France. Ruth went there to cover the refugees' refusal to disembark. She was given permission to visit the refugees in the prison ship Runnymede Park. There she photographed them in wire cages with barbed wire on top of the cages for good measure as they held a Union Jack with swastika drawn on it. Her reportage of the refugees being forced to go to Germany created such a world uproar that the British gave up their mandate of Palestine setting in motion the UN decision on November 29, 1947 to establish the Jewish state.

Not resting on her laurels, at the age of 74 Ruth visited the Jews of Ethiopia in 1985. Her account of their rescue was published in her book, ‘The Exodus of Ethiopian Jews’.

For years Ruth had been a friend of the AVI. With her health permitting, she attended and participated in many AVI functions and events. She will be sorely missed.

May her memory be a blessing.

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