Legendary Mossad Agent Eli Cohen



Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 3:30PM on Facebook LIVE, log on to: www.facebook.com/ChabadSeminary or watch above for an intriguing lecture by Avraham Cohen.

Ben Weider Memorial Lecture Series with Avraham Cohen

Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 3:30PM

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Don’t miss hearing Avraham Cohen and the story About Eli Cohen Israel's most famous spy

Eli Cohen was arguably one of Israel's most successful and most famous spies. Under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet and the guise of a wealthy Arab businessman, he penetrated the highest echelons of the Syrian government, ultimately being considered for the position of Syrian Deputy Minister of Defense!

The intelligence he gathered before his arrest is said to have been an important factor in Israel's success in the Six Day War.

Eli Cohen was born in Alexandria to a devout Jewish family in 1924. In January 1947, he chose to enlist in the Egyptian Army as an alternative to paying the prescribed sum all young Jews were supposed to pay, but was declared ineligible on grounds of questionable loyalty. Later that year, he left university and began studying at home after facing harassment by the Muslim Brotherhood. In the years following the creation of Israel, many Jewish families left Egypt. Though his parents and three brothers left for Israel in 1949, Cohen remained to finish a degree in electronics and to coordinate Jewish activities.

Working for the Mossad

In 1957, Cohen was recruited by the Israel Defense Forces, and was placed in military intelligence, where he became a counterintelligence analyst. His work bored him, and he attempted to join the MossadCohen was offended when Mossad rejected him, and resigned from military counterintelligence. For the next two years, he worked as a filing clerk in a Tel Aviv insurance office, and married Nadia Majald, an Iraqi-Jewish immigrant, in 1959. They had three children.

The Mossad recruited Cohen after Director-General Meir Amit, looking for a special agent to infiltrate the Syrian government, came across his name while looking through the agency's files of rejected candidates, after none of the current candidates seemed suitable for the job. For two weeks he was put under surveillance, and was judged suitable for recruitment and training. Cohen was then informed that the Mossad had decided to recruit him, and underwent an intensive, six-month course at the Mossad training school. His graduate report stated that he had all the qualities needed to become a katsa, or field agent.

He was then given a false identity as a Syrian businessman who was returning to the country after living in Argentina. To establish his cover, Cohen moved to Argentinain 1961.

Infiltration and confidence building

The tactics of Cohen to build relations with Syrian high-ranked politicians, military officials, influential public figures and local foreign diplomacy community, had been carefully masterminded by Mossad. He continued his social life as in Argentina, spending time in cafes listening to political gossip. He also held parties at his home, which turned into orgies for high-placed Syrian ministers, businessmen, and others, who used Cohen's apartment "for assignations with various women, including Defense Ministry secretaries, airline hostesses, and Syrian singing stars."

At these parties such highly placed officials would "talk freely of their work and army plans. Eli, who would feign intoxication, remained sober and listened carefully. In addition to providing loans to government officials and acting as an avid host, he was asked for advice by government officials, who were often intoxicated by the alcohol he freely provided. Cohen himself was not above the spicier part of a spy's life either. He established a good friendship with Amin al-Hafiz, the Syrian Prime Minister.

Intelligence collected

Cohen provided an incredible amount of intelligence data to the Israeli Army over a period of four years (1961–1965). Cohen sent intelligence to Israel by radio, secret letters, and occasionally in person, he secretly traveled to Israel three times. His most famous achievement was when he toured the Golan Heights, and collected intelligence on the Syrian fortifications there. Feigning sympathy for the Syrian soldiers exposed to the sun, Cohen had trees planted at every position. The trees were used as targeting markers by the Israeli military during the Six-Day War and enabled Israel to easily capture the Golan Heights in two days.

Cohen made repeated visits to the southern frontier zone, providing photographs and sketches of Syrian positions.Cohen learned of an important secret plan by Syria to create three successive lines of bunkers and mortars; the Israel Defense Forces would otherwise have expected to encounter only a single line.

Caught Red Handed

Newly appointed Syrian Intelligence Colonel Ahmed Su'edani trusted no one and disliked Cohen. Because of this, Cohen expressed his fear and wish to terminate his assignment in Syria during his last secret visit to Israel in November 1964 to pass intelligence and for the birth of his third child. Still, Israeli Intelligence asked him to return to Syria one more time. Before leaving, Cohen assured his wife that there would only be one more trip before he returned permanently.

In January 1965, Syrian efforts to find a high-level mole were stepped up. Using Soviet-made tracking equipment and assisted by hired Soviet experts, a period of radio silence was observed, and it was hoped that any illegal transmissions could be identified. After large amounts of radio interference were detected and traced to their source, on 24 January Syrian security officers broke into Cohen's apartment where he was caught in the middle of transmission to Israel.

Conviction and death sentence

Cohen was said to have been repeatedly interrogated and tortured. Israel staged an international campaign for clemency, hoping to persuade the Syrians not to execute him. Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir led a campaign, demanding the international community to force Damascus to consider the consequences of hanging CohenDiplomats, Prime Ministers, and even the Pope tried to intercede. Meir even appealed to the Soviet Union.Despite international appeals, and the governments of France, Belgium and Canada, to persuade the Syrian government to commute the death sentence, the death sentence decision was upheld.

On 15 May 1965, Cohen wrote in his final letter:

"...I am begging you my dear Nadia not to spend your time in weeping about some thing already passed. Concentrate on yourself, looking forward for a better future!"

On 18 May 1965, Cohen was publicly hanged in the Marjeh Square in Damascus. On the day of his execution, Cohen's 'last wish' to see a Rabbi was respected by the prison authorities. While on his way in a truck to the Marjeh Square, he was accompanied by Nissim Andabo, the 80-year-old Chief Rabbi of Syria.

Still holding him hostage!

Requests by Cohen's family for his remains to be returned to Israel have been rejected by the Syrian authorities. In August 2008 Monthir Maosily, the former bureau chief of the late Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, said that Eli Cohen's burial site is unknown, claiming that the Syrians buried the executed Israeli spy three times, to stop the remains from being brought back to Israel via a special operation. Cohen's brothers, Abraham and Maurice, have led the campaign to return his remains.

Memory and remembrance

The film The Impossible Spy is a depiction of his life.

Cohen has since become a national hero in Israel. Many streets and neighborhoods have been named for him. His son's Bar Mitzvah in 1977 was attended by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann, Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur, and several Mossad operatives. A memorial stone has been erected to Cohen in the Garden of the Missing Soldiers in Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.


Chabad Seminary of Canada – Ben Weider Educational Center, a charitable non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and train young girls in the ethics, morals and values of life, is host to this event.

The Seminary aspires to foster an environment conducive to academic growth and character development, forming the future leaders and women of tomorrow by providing affordable College level education. The young women are dedicated to providing every Jew, regardless of background, philosophy or level of commitment an open-door environment and array of events and activities for enhancing Jewish family life.

Our students are trained by professionals to attend to the educational needs of the mentally and physically challenged children in the Montreal community.