Tag Archives: Operation Opera

Jew of the Week: Rafi Eitan

The Spy Who Caught Eichmann And Obtained Israel’s Uranium

Rafi Eitan

Rafael Eitan (1926-2019) was born in a kibbutz to Jewish-Russian immigrants that settled in the Holy Land three years earlier. He studied at an agricultural school, as well as at the London School of Economics. His first foray into the military came at just age 12 when he joined the Haganah to defend his kibbutz from Arab attacks. Upon graduating from high school, Eitan was promoted to the Palmach, the Haganah’s special forces. He was part of a team that worked tirelessly to bring Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors to Israel. In 1946, he participated in the raid on the Atlit detention centre, where the British held many “illegal” Jewish immigrants. In one famous mission, Eitan was tasked with destroying the British radar system on Mount Carmel, which they used to track ships carrying Jews. Eitan reached the radar undetected by climbing through sewer systems (earning him the nickname “Rafi the Stinker”) and successfully blew it up. He was later injured in a mine explosion and lost most of his hearing. Eitan was further wounded in Israel’s Independence War. Following this, he became an intelligence officer, first for Shin Bet, and then for Mossad. During this time, he planned, coordinated, and perfectly executed Operation Finale, the mission to capture Adolf Eichmann, then hiding in Argentina. Following this, Eitan was a secret agent in Europe, where his team captured weapons shipments from Germany to Egypt. In what is certainly his most infamous mission, Eitan visited the US Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation in 1968 disguised as a chemist. Shortly after, it was found that the lab was missing as much as 272 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. Despite many investigations, no evidence was found, and no charges could be laid, though many believe that Eitan secured the uranium for Israel’s nuclear program. (The incident is referred to as the “Apollo Affair”.) Eitan retired in 1972 and started a business raising tropical fish. He was asked by the Israeli government to return to work in 1978 to head a counter-terrorism group. During this time he helped plan Operation Opera in which Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor. Meanwhile, Eitan worked closely with MI6 counter-terror, and helped them find and eliminate a number of high-profile IRA terrorists. (In response to this, the IRA put out a contract to have Eitan assassinated!) One of the counter-terrorism intelligence agents in Eitan’s portfolio was Jonathan Pollard, who was later exposed and arrested. Eitan was criticized for abandoning Pollard, and resigned over the incident (though he maintains he had an escape plan for Pollard that the spy didn’t follow). Eitan later ran the Israel Chemicals Corporation until retiring at age 67. Eitan wasn’t done yet. He partnered with a few others to start a business in Cuba. The firm, BM Group, has grown to become an important developer in the country, and has built Havana’s World Trade Center and its Holocaust Memorial. After its success on agricultural projects in Cuba (winning it a medal from the Cuban government), BM has spread across Latin America. In 2006, Eitan was asked to run for Knesset under the Gil Pensioner’s party and, despite projections, won a whopping 7 seats. He served as a parliamentarian until 2009, at which point (being 83 years old) he retired for good. Eitan continued to advise his and other governments, and spent much of his time sculpting (he produced over 100 pieces). Sadly, the renowned spymaster passed away last week.

The 7 Prophetesses of Judaism

Words of the Week

It’s in the Muslim consciousness that the land first belonged to the Jews. It doesn’t matter if the Jews were exiled 500 years or 2000 years, the Holy Land, as mentioned in Quran belongs to Moses and his people, the Jews.
– Professor Khaleel Mohammed

Jew of the Week: Yehuda Avner

In Memory of a Great Israeli Diplomat

Yehuda Avner

Yehuda Avner

Yehuda Haffner (1928-2015) was born in Manchester, England to an Orthodox Jewish family. From a young age he was involved with Bnei Akiva, a religious-Zionist organization founded a year after Haffner was born (and now the world’s largest religious-Zionist youth movement). He would later serve as its national director, too. After high school, Haffner moved to Israel, taking on the more Hebrew-sounding last name of Avner. Shortly after that, he fought in Israel’s War of Independence with the elite Palmach forces, defending Jerusalem during its difficult siege. Following the war, he helped to found the religious Kibbutz Lavi. In 1958, Avner joined the Israeli Foreign Service and worked for the Prime Minister’s office. For the next 25 years, he served as a speechwriter, secretary, and advisor to six prime ministers and presidents. He also became an important statesman and politician of his own, as an Israeli diplomat in Washington, as ambassador to the UK, Ireland, and Australia, and for his involvement in key operations such as Entebbe (to free Jewish hostages from a hijacked airplane in Uganda), and Operation Opera (to destroy Iraq’s nuclear capabilities). Interestingly, he also served as Israel’s unofficial liaison to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Throughout his career, he never compromised his faith, proudly wearing his kippah wherever he went, and making sure to have kosher meals arranged at state dinners. In 2010, Avner published a highly-acclaimed memoir which has since been adapted into a documentary (voiced by Sandra Bullock, Michael Douglas, Cristoph Waltz, and Leonard Nimoy). He has been described as “one of the senior members of Israeli diplomacy”, “living Israel’s history”, and “Begin’s Shakespeare” for his beautiful speeches. Sadly, Avner passed away yesterday from complications due to cancer.

Words of the Week

From Yehuda Avner’s “Ten Commandments”:

1. When an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.
2. Stand tall in the knowledge that every tyrant in history who has ever sought our destruction has himself been destroyed.
6. Whenever a threat against a fellow Jew looms, do all in your power to come to his aid, whatever the sacrifice.
7. Never pause to wonder what others will think or say.
8. Be forever loyal to the historic truth that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and Jerusalem its eternal capital.
10. Build Jewish homes not by the accident of birth, but by the conviction of our eternal Torah.

Jew of the Week: Ilan Ramon

An Inspiring Hero: Israel’s First Astronaut

Ilan Ramon

Ilan Ramon – Israel’s First Astronaut

Ilan Wolferman (1954-2003) was born in Ramat Gan, Israel to Holocaust survivors. At just 19 years of age, he distinguished himself in the Yom Kippur War as a brave soldier, receiving a military decoration for his service. A year later he graduated as a fighter pilot, and as customary, took on a new name, ‘Ramon’. By 1981 he was promoted to squadron commander and was the youngest pilot to participate in the covert Operation Opera – Israel’s successful hit on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. He would log over 4000 hours of flying time, 1000 of which were in an F-16. In the relative calm of the late 1980s, Ramon studied at Tel Aviv University and earned a science degree in electronics and computer engineering. Returning to the military, he became a colonel by 1994, and in 1997 was invited by NASA to serve as a payload specialist in its space shuttle program.

His mission finally came in 2003, when he spent nearly 16 days in space, working 24 hour shifts and performing over 80 successful experiments. He proudly declared that he was representing all Jews and all Israelis. Part of that meant that his space food was certified kosher, that he brought to space with him a Torah scroll and a mezuzah, and he even asked his rabbi how he should keep Shabbat in orbit, where sunrise comes every 90 minutes. Tragically, the Columbia space shuttle exploded upon re-entry into Earth, taking the life of Ramon and his fellow crewmates. Sadder still, Ramon’s son Asaf perished in a training flight in 2009. In an unbelievable miracle, 37 pages of Ilan Ramon’s diary somehow survived the crash, when virtually everything else completely disintegrated. Scientists stated there is no “rational explanation” to how this was possible. An inspiring hero, Ilan Ramon was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and his memory continues to be a shining beacon for Israel and the Jewish nation.

Words of the Week

Why [are mourners fed] lentils? Just as the lentil has no mouth, so is the mourner speechless…Just as the lentil is round, so mourning comes round to all the inhabitants of this world.
– Talmud, Bava Batra 16b