Vietnamese refugees in Israel

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A Vietnamese youngster with a Magen David Adom "tembel" hat at Ben Gurion Airport, June 26, 1977. Credit: Israeli Government Press Office.

From 1977 to 1979 the State of Israel permitted approximately 360 Vietnamese boat people fleeing the 1975 Communist takeover of Vietnam to enter the country.[1][2][3] The most well-known rescue operation took place on June 10, 1977 in which an Israeli freighter ship called the Yuvali, en route to Taiwan, sighted the passengers.[4][5]

Prime Minister Menachem Begin was quoted as having compared them to Holocaust refugees:[6]

"We never have forgotten the boat with 900 Jews, the St. Louis, having left Germany in the last weeks before the Second World War… traveling from harbor to harbor, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused… Therefore it was natural… to give those people a haven in the Land of Israel."[7]

An Associated Press broadcast from October 26, 1979 covered one of the arrival flights in which a refugee stated he would like to thank the government of Israel and Prime Minister Menachem Begin "to give us a homeland while the other countries were still reluctant to take us when we left our country to flee from the barbaric regime of communism."[8]

Vietnamese refugees happily waving to the welcoming crowd at Ben Gurion Airport, June 26, 1977. Credit: Israeli Government Press Office.

The Times of Israel, in a special report in 2015 quoted the Vietnamese Embassy in Israel that approximately 150 to 200 former Vietnamese refugees and descendants were still in Israel while about half have left Israel mainly for the USA and France.[9]

Prominent Vietnamese Israelis include: Vaan Nguyen, and poet and actress and subject of an award-winning documentary The Journey of Vaan Nguyen,[10] Dr. Sabine Huynh, a translator, sociologist and author who fled Vietnam for France in 1976 and has lived in Israel since 2001,[11] and Dao Rochvarger-Wong, who headed Bank Hapoalim in Singapore.[12][13]

A Vietnamese boy in at WIZO kindergarten in Afula, February 4, 1979. Credit: Israeli Government Press Office.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Vietnamese 'boat people' become Israeli". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  2. ^ "Vietnamese Boat People in Israel". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  3. ^ "Behind the Headlines the 'boat People' Through Jewish Eyes". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  4. ^ "Vietnamese Boat People in the Promised Land". aishcom. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  5. ^ "Seeking Kin: A fateful encounter at sea". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  6. ^ "Carter, Welcoming Begin, Hails Israeli Leader As Man of Principle". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  7. ^ Center, Jewish Policy (2012-06-06). "Israel and the boat people – Jewish Policy Center". Jewish Policy Center. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  8. ^ AP Archive (2015-07-24), UPITN 26 10 79 VIETNAMESE BOAT PEOPLE ARRIVE IN ISRAEL, retrieved 2018-02-19
  9. ^ "35 years on, where are Israel's Vietnamese refugees?". Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  10. ^ Dror, Duki (2005-09-29), The Journey of Vaan Nguyen, Vaan Nguyen, retrieved 2018-02-19
  11. ^ "presque dire". Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  12. ^ "'Faces of Israel' campaign aims to highlight nation's different colors". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  13. ^ Deane, Andrew. "Major Israeli Institution Opens For Private Banking Business in Singapore". Dao Rochvarger-Wong has been appointed head of private banking. WealthBriefing has learnt that Mrs Rochvarger-Wong and her family were amongst the Vietnamese boat people who were rescued by Israel in 1979 when no-one else in the region would help many thousands like her. Brought up in Israel, Mrs Rochvarger-Wong, adopted the Jewish faith and served with distinction in the military. She embarked on a career in private banking with Bank Leumi before joining Hapoalim. External link in |website= (help)