Tag Archives: Mossad

Jew of the Week: Meir Dagan

Meir Dagan (Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

Meir Dagan (Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

Meir Huberman (1945-2016) was born on a train while his parents, Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors, were fleeing to the Soviet Union. Five years later, they made aliyah to Israel and ultimately settled in Bat Yam, where Meir’s parents opened up a laundromat, and changed the family name to Dagan. Meir went on to study art at Tel Aviv University, and when conscripted to the IDF, joined the elite Paratroopers Brigade (which accepts just 1 in 5 applicants). A year following the completion of his mandatory service, he was called up to serve in the Six-Day War. As an officer, he commanded a paratrooper unit in the Sinai. Following the war, he stayed in the military and was soon tasked with leading a commando unit, Sayeret Rimon, operating undercover in the Palestinian territories. During one daring mission, Dagan tackled and disarmed a terrorist holding a live grenade, a feat that earned him a Medal of Courage. He was called to command a unit once more during the Yom Kippur War, successfully pushing across the Suez Canal. In 1982, the armored unit under his command was among the first to reach Beirut during the Lebanon War. Dagan retired from the military in 1995 with the top rank of Major General. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appointed him as National Security Adviser, and then Director-General of the Mossad. Unlike former Mossad heads who were weary of doing so, Dagan was praised for his aggressive tactics in assassinating terrorist leaders (most famously Imad Mughniyeh, the terror chief of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad). Dagan essentially tripled Mossad’s activities, and a Knesset member has said that under his watch, the Mossad “has undergone a revolution in terms of organization, intelligence, and operations”. Dagan continued to head Mossad until the end of 2010, when he crossed paths with Netanyahu over plans to strike Iran, which Dagan opposed, saying “Israel should not hasten to attack Iran, doing so only when the sword is upon its neck.” (Instead, Dagan had sent countless cyberattacks to cripple Iran’s nuclear program, together with car bombs to assassinate its engineers.) After stepping down, Dagan became director of Israel’s Port Authority, as well as chairman of Gulliver Energy, an Israeli mining company. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. After chemotherapy failed, he received a liver transplant, but this, too, didn’t remove the cancer completely. Sadly, Dagan passed away last week. He was eulogized by President Rivlin as “one of the greatest of the brave, creative and devout warriors that the Jewish people ever had. His devotion to the State of Israel was absolute.”

Words of the Week

The issue of Iran armed with a nuclear capability is not an Israeli problem; it’s an international problem.
– Meir Dagan

This is a photograph of Meir Dagan’s grandfather right before being murdered by Nazis. The photo hung in Dagan’s office as a constant reminder of his important work.

Jew of the Week: Hilik Magnus

“The Godfather of Search & Rescue”

Hilik Magnus (Courtesy of Hilik Magnus and Times of Israel)

Hilik Magnus

Yechiel “Hilik” Magnus (b. 1949) was born in Sweden to a German-Polish-Jewish family that moved to Israel while he was still an infant. Magnus grew up in the Holy Land, and served in the IDF as an elite paratrooper, as well as with the special forces, and later with the Mossad. After his military career, he worked as the director of nature conservation in Israel’s southern regions. During an Israeli-Japanese cultural project, Magnus found a new passion in traveling to the Far East, and toured the region extensively. Due to his intense military and intelligence training, Magnus was soon involved in a number of rescue missions to save Israeli backpackers trapped in Asia. By 1994, he turned this into a full-time job, creating an international search and rescue team that works with insurance companies and worried parents. He has helped bring thousands of families back together, earning the nickname of Israel’s “national rescuer”. These missions have included saving people from natural disasters, accidents, druggings, hostage situations, and even freeing Israelis from prison. Several years ago, he tracked down the body of a young man missing for over a month in Brazil. Most recently, he journeyed to Nepal to help those trapped in the snowstorm that killed dozens. His expertise makes him sought out by various governments and organizations all over the world. He is the first man Israeli parents call when their children abroad are in trouble. Soon, it won’t be just Israeli parents, as Magnus has grown his search and rescue team, and intends on offering these services to any family in need of assistance. Despite being in his mid-60s, Magnus still leads even the most difficult of missions.

Words of the Week

Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.
– David McCullough Jr.

Jew of the Week: Eli Cohen

The Impossible Spy

Eli Cohen: Possibly the greatest spy of all time

Eliyahu Cohen (1924-1965) was born in Egypt to an immigrant family of Syrian Jews. In the 1950s, he became involved in Israeli espionage activities, including Operation Goshen, which smuggled over 10,000 Jews out of Egypt, saving them from violence and persecution. Shortly after arriving in Israel he was recruited by the Mossad to be an Israeli intelligence agent in Syria. A new identity was created for him: Kamel Amin Thaabet, a wealthy Syrian returning from Argentina. To create a convincing spy, Cohen actually lived in Argentina before being deployed to Syria In 1962. He quickly gained the trust of powerful people, making friends with generals and rising through the ranks of the ruling Baath party. Cohen toured Syria’s most sensitive military sites, secretly sending the information to Israel (which many believe was absolutely critical in Israel’s 1967 victory). Amazingly, Eli Cohen was nearly appointed Syria’s Deputy Minister of Defence, and at one point, was third in the line of succession to Syria’s presidency!┬áSoviet agents uncovered Cohen’s identity in 1965. Without proper trial, he was publicly hanged to death, and the Syrians reburied him at least three times, fearing an Israeli operation to recover his body. To this day, the Syrians refuse to return his remains. Eli Cohen is considered one of the greatest intelligence agents of all time. His incredible story was captured in the film The Impossible Spy.

Purim Starts Wednesday!

 

Words of the Week

When God desired to create man, Truth said: “He should not be created, for he is full of lies.” Kindness said: “He should be created, for he is full of kindness.”
– Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 8:5