Just above the Bat Galim Promenade, at the foot of Mount Carmel in the city of Haifa, is the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum. A large museum with many hands-on exhibits including two retired ships and a submarine on display and open for exploring, the museum is operated by the Israeli Navy and Ministry of Defence so don’t be surprised to find the front door locked – the guards will open it for you and ask for identification. Once inside, a short video presentation is shown giving a brief overview of the Israeli Navy’s history and then the large collection of both clandestine immigration and naval maps, photographs, articles and souvenirs can be browsed. Also, for those interested, a database of war medal and decoration recipients is available behind the guard’s booth.
INS Mitvach at the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum
In the main room, the “History of the Navy” exhibit, learn about the Battle of Tel Aviv where the Israeli Navy’s first warship, the INS Eilat – originally a icebreaker for the Canadian Navy and then the US Coast Guard, intercepted a group of Egyptian ships in June 1948 with just a few machine guns and a dummy wood cannon. Read about Operation “Pirate” and the 1953 Assistance to Greek Earthquake Victims exhibit, with a life-size dummy dressed in a 1950s commando diving suit completed with weaponry. Look at the pictures of Squadron 788 and their twenty-year stint as guardians of the Sea of Galilee – constantly under fire from Syrian MiG fighter jets and artillery. Learn the amazing story of the capturing of the Egyptian warship Ibrahim El Awell by the Israeli Navy and how it was turned into the INS Haifa. Be mystified at the tale of the Israeli Naval submarine INS Dakar and its disappearance in the Mediterranean Sea in 1968, only to be found in 1999 with the help of the US Navy and modern technology.
Leaving the exhibit, step outside to the yard exhibits, a large collection of naval guns and ship parts. See the Styx surface-to-surface missiles, the Italian “Maiale” underwater commando boats, the explosive motor boats, the assortment of Italian, British and Israeli naval guns of all shapes and sizes (most stripped off of captured Egyptian ships), several boat propellers and anchors until reaching the INS Mivtach. The INS Mivtach is Israel’s first missile boat built in Cherbourg, France and launched in 1967 with a crew of 40. After many wars and many successes, the INS Mivtach was decommissioned in 1996 and transferred to the museum with much difficulty. Today, you can board the ship and see for yourself the inner workings of naval vessels, complete with realistic sounds and commands on recordings in the various control rooms. Climb up though the narrow hatch and walk on the deck of INS Mivtach, looking out at the sea and the mountain. Feel free to examine the old weaponry such as the missile system and the huge naval gun on its turret. Upon descending from the INS Mivtach, the INS Gal submarine is next on the hands-on list.
Communications Room on the INS Mitvach
The INS Gal is based on the German 206A type submarine with many changes by the Israelis making it an advanced submarine for its time. Commissioned in 1975, the INS Gal served in several of Israel’s battles and sorties and was finally decommissioned when the Dolphin class submarines were put into use. Inside the submarine, much like the ship, there are recorded commands and noises typical of a seafaring vessel such as a submarine. Visitors are welcome to try out the periscope, pre-set to observing the road up above the museum, children love it!
Back on the ground, a warehouse is built under and around another ship, the “Af Al Pi Chen” (“In Spite Of It All”) immigration vessel. Under the ship is an in-depth exhibit of the Cyprus Detention Camps run by the British in the late 1940s and the early Israeli resistance to the British rule before the establishment of Israel as a country. Artifacts such as household goods from the detention camps and explosives and guns from the Hagana are neatly preserved in the shadow of the large ship. Going up a flight of stairs will take you to the ship’s boarding platform where visitors can enter the WWII British tank landing craft, turned into a refugee transport ship, and watch the offered video about the clandestine immigration attempts. Hear the stories and testimonials of the refugees within the ship itself and learn how life was like for the men and women who braved the dangerous voyages to reach the Holy Land.
Visiting the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum, Haifa
Sun – Thurs: 8:30am-4pm
Closed on Friday and Saturday
Adult: NIS 15
Child: NIS 7.50
Purchase of ticket includes a free pass to the National Maritime Museum (expires 2 days after purchase)
204 Allenby Road, Haifa
By: Shem Tov Sasson. A Contributing Journalist for Tourist Israel, Shem Tov lives in the small Israeli city of Ma’alot. His personal blog about his experiences and adventures in the Holy Land can be found at Israel’s Good Name.