Sereni, Enzo ḤAyyim

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SERENI, ENZO ḤAYYIM (1905–1944), Italian pioneer in Palestine, labor leader, writer, and one of the *Haganah emissaries parachuted into Europe during World War ii. Born in Rome, the descendant of the distinguished and assimilated *Sereni family, he "discovered" Zionism after attending the Thirteenth Zionist Congress in Carlsbad (1923). He was one of the first in Italy to promote settlement in Palestine as a social ideal. He was a socialist with religious aspirations, seeking spiritual perfection in the light of modern philosophy. After completing his university studies and being involved in a conflict with the authorities because of his anti-Fascist and pacifist activities, he settled in Palestine in 1927. He first worked in an orange grove in Reḥovot. Later he joined in founding kibbutz Givat *Brenner. He was also active in the *Histadrut, *Mapai, and Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad movement. Sensing the approach of war, he went several times as an emissary to Germany and other European countries (1931–34) to train ḥalutzim. During the Arab riots in Palestine (1936–39), he stood out as a pacifist, and even in times of tension went unarmed to Arab villages. However, as soon as World War ii broke out he joined the British Army, and edited newspapers and radio broadcasts in Italian. His military activities for the Allies in Iraq in 1941 were accompanied by clandestine Zionist educational work among Jewish youth, many of whom he transported across the desert to Palestine.

On his return to Palestine, Sereni devoted himself to the preparation of groups of parachutists to drop behind enemy lines to join partisans and help rescue Jewish survivors (see *Haganah). Despite strong opposition, he insisted on being dropped into that part of Italy which was still under Nazi control. For some unknown reason, he landed in the German lines. He was immediately captured and sent from camp to camp until he was finally shot in *Dachau on Nov. 18, 1944. In 1951 his book Mekorot ha-Fashizm ha-Italki ("Sources of Italian Fascism") was published. He also wrote Arabs and Jews in Palestine (1936) and Ha-Aviv ha-Kadosh ("The Holy Spring," 1947). Kibbutz Neẓer *Sereni was named after him, as was a cultural center in Givat Brenner.

His wife, ada (b. 1905), shared most of his missions. In the process of searching for her husband, she became a central figure in the organization of "illegal" *immigration to Palestine through Italy. She succeeded in winning the cooperation of the postwar Italian authorities in the Jewish rescue operation in spite of strong British counterpressure. In the 1960s she organized and led the Associazione Italia-Israele in Rome. She subsequently settled in Jerusalem. Ada Sereni was awarded the Israel Prize in 1995. Her book Sefinot le-lo Degel ("Ships without a Flag," 1973) is about the "illegal" immigration to Palestine.


C. Castelbolognesi, preface to E. Sereni, Ha-Aviv ha-Kadosh (1947); C. Urquhart and P.L. Brent, A Hero of Our Times (1967); A. Milano et al. (eds.), Sefer Zikkaron le-Ḥayyim Enzo Sereni (Heb. and It., 1970).

[Calev Castel]