Holocaust survivor and ‘Exodus’ passenger Fruma Gallant, defense minister’s mom, dies

Herzog praises her for passing on sense of duty to serve to next generation; Netanyahu sends condolences to ‘our friend’ Yoav Gallant, who doesn’t break from directing Gaza op

Yoav Gallant and his mother Fruma in an undated photo (Facebook)
Yoav Gallant and his mother Fruma in an undated photo (Facebook)

Holocaust survivor Fruma Gallant, who traveled to British-controlled Palestine on the ‘Exodus’ ship and was the mother of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, has died aged 88.

The Defense Ministry announced her death on Thursday, as her son was heading up Operation Shield and Arrow against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza.

The ministry said that the defense minister was still involved in the operation on an ongoing basis.

Gallant tweeted a photo of the two of them together and wrote that his mother had died peacefully, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

Fruma Gallant was born in Poland and arrived in pre-state Israel on the Aliya Bet ship the ‘Exodus’ in 1947, but the passengers were deported back to Germany by British troops before they could disembark.

The celebrated ship was part of an attempt to bring thousands of Holocaust survivors from Europe and the deportation is widely believed to have helped turn the tide of public opinion in favor of the creation of a Jewish state.

Gallant later returned to Israel shortly after the state’s establishment and she often gave speeches about her life to groups and visiting dignitaries.

Last month, the defense minister mentioned his mother in a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day, noting that she was a five-year-old girl when the Nazis invaded Poland.

“Like many of my generation, I grew up on the stories and memories of the years of the world war,” he said.

The defense minister cited his mother’s experiences during his March speech calling for a pause to the contentious judicial overhaul.

“Significant, national changes are achieved through dialogue. This evening, I am thinking of the generation of the founders of Israel. I think of my mother Fruma – a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Israel onboard the Exodus,” Gallant said in the speech that led to his firing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (he was later reinstated after mass protests).

Gallant then posted a video in which he was heard talking to his mother in the wake of his dismissal.

“You have intelligence and courage and I love you very much,” Fruma Gallant said. “I hope everything will be fine.”

Netanyahu and Gallant have since put on a united front and on Thursday, the premier sent his condolences.

“On behalf of myself, my wife Sara and all the members of the Likud party, I send my heartfelt condolences to our friend, Minister Yoav Gallant, on the passing of his late mother Fruma,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“The story of Fruma is a story of inspiration and the embodiment of the Zionist vision. She survived the horrors of the Holocaust, went through the arduous journey to Israel aboard the Exodus and raised an honorable family with a son who is the defense minister of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “May her memory be a blessing.”

Fruma Gallant was also eulogized by President Isaac Herzog and praised for imparting a sense of duty.

“The story of her life is the story of the Holocaust and rebirth. A Holocaust survivor who came to Israel on the Exodus and built an exemplary life and family here,” he wrote.

“I had the privilege of hosting her at the President’s Residence and was moved by her life story and the fact that she passed on the duty to serve and protect our people to the next generation,” Herzog wrote in an apparent reference to her son. “My condolences to her family.”

The ‘Exodus 1947’ after being seized by the British Navy off the coast of Haifa on July 18, 1947 (Courtesy: Government Press Office)

The Israel Defense Forces also issued a statement of condolence on behalf of all servicemembers and Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

“The life stories of the late Fruma are intertwined in the story of the founding of the State of Israel and are an inspiration to us all,” the IDF said. “May her memory be a blessing.”

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