Review: Mossad by Michael Bar-Zohar, Nissim Mishal

The dirtiest actions should be carried out by the most honest men.

I’ve been eyeing this book, sitting patiently on my library shelves, enough visits to finally peak my interest, but I knew that lugging this beast of a book home was commitment enough, so I waited for a sign and it came that same week when my mother mentioned the movie The Debt. And, oh, what a racing read! No thriller has been as nail-biting intense as the recounting of these Mossad missions.

The Mossad is widely recognized today as the best intelligence service in the world. It is also the most enigmatic, shrouded in secrecy. Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service unveils the defi ning and most dangerous operations that have shaped Israel and the world at large from the agency’s more than sixty-year history, among them: the capture of Adolf Eichmann, the eradication of Black September, the destruction of the Syrian nuclear facility, and the elimination of key Iranian nuclear scientists.

Through intensive research and exclusive interviews with Israeli leaders and Mossad agents, authors Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal re-create these missions in riveting detail, vividly bringing to life the heroic operatives who risked everything in the face of unimaginable danger. In the words of Shimon Peres, president of Israel, this gripping, white-knuckle read “tells what should have been known and isn’t–that Israel’s hidden force is as formidable as its recognized physical strength.”
To lay it all on the table, I wasn’t sure before starting this book if I’d even bother to read through more than one story because the book is quite intimidating in its size. But then I opened the first chapter, titled “ King of Shadows,” and was swept right up into the world of high-stake Mossad operations, led at the hands of the “legendary fighter,” Meir Dagan.

“He had planned the entire operation: posing as Lebanese terrorists, sailing in an old vessel from Ashdod, a port in Israel, the long night of hiding, the meeting with the terrorist leaders, and the escape route after the hit. He had even organized the fake pursuit by the Israeli torpedo boat. Dagan was the ultimate guerilla, bold and creative, not someone who stuck to the rules of engagement. Yitzhak Rabin once said: “Meir has the unique capacity to invent antiterrorist operations that look like movie thrillers.”

And it’s thanks to the authors writing skills, wherein they don’t reveal their cards right away and make us wait for the reveal to drop, that holds for such a thrilling ride ahead.

The chapters to make my heart skip a beat contain: capturing spies, trying to infiltrate the Mossad, on a gut feeling, capturing traitors, bringing justice to the Jewish state, and so much more that held me practically glued to the pages of this book.

  • “A Hanging in Bagdhad”
  • “Oh, That? It’s Khrushchev’s Speech …”
  • “Bring Eichmann Dead or Alive!”

Hands down the most gripping chapter in this book was the capturing of Eichmann, yimakh shemo, and also my main reason for wanting to read Mossad in the first place.

I appreciated how the book showed the intense preparation that goes behind the scenes to succeed in a secret mission. The following of the target, learning his habits and maintaining his routine… The tiniest of details that had to be pinned down, all of which are worth to reach this moment:

“They shook hands. Eichmann was in their grasp.
Eitan thought he had his feelings under control. But then he suddenly realized that he was humming the song of the Jewish partisans in the war against the Nazis, and repeating the refrain: “We are here! We are here!”

This was a beyond moving chapter, for me. And I only wish they could’ve elaborated a bit more on the trial that took place in Israel, considering the fascinating lesson I listened to that points out Eichmann’s flawed attempt at bringing Kant’s philosophy to his defence – the theory of relative morality – claiming that, in Germany 1940-something, it was considered a moral act to obliterate Jews. In Eichmann’s trial, the lecturer brings to light philosopher Israel Eldad’s argument that, in this case, judge Halevi should’ve taken apart the philosophy as a whole; “the courts of Jerusalem should put relative morality at trial.” “Because it’s not enough to try one man for the murder of 6 million Jews. You have to put on trial not only the man and not only the nation that participated in the act but also the very philosophy that allowed mankind to reach such barbarism.”

And it felt as if the entire Jewish people identified with the prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, who confronted the Nazi criminal as the representative of his 6 million victims.

Never again.

“Two police officers behind a screen simultaneously pressed two buttons, only one of which worked the trapdoor. Neither knew who had the controlling button, so the name of Eichmann’s executioner remains unknown.”

So the following chapter, fittingly titled “Those Who’ll Never Forget,” only four years after the Eichmann trial, got my blood boiling like no other, wherein “the West Germany’s parliament would adopt a statute of limitations regarding war crimes, which meant that Nazi criminals—living now undercover—would be able to re-emerge from hiding and resume normal lives, as if they had never committed their atrocious acts. ” This type of atrocity of erasing the Holocaust is happening in this day and age, as well, and it makes me furious. So reading about the Mossad bringing justice to the Jewish nation by killing “one of the greatest Nazi criminals,” Herberts Cukurs, who’s personally responsible for massacring 30,000 Jews, was enough to calm my rage in that moment.

“The world needed to be reminded that monsters were still at large.”

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Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 | Night by Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel (Translator)

“Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.”

My first reading of Elie Wiesel’s Night occurred during this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day.Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.

Words cannot begin to comprehend the plight of suffering and cruelty revealed in this book that had me on the verge of breaking into sobs page after page, so I’ll let the writing speak for itself by sharing moments and passages that cannot be forgotten in time:

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This here is exactly why I refuse to participate with anything regarding Germany; the world is complicit in its indifference.  “…my hatred remains our only link today.”

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It pained me beyond words to see my people fall under the “this surely won’t happen to me” spell.

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And the effect spreads like a snowball, gathering more and more edicts as the days go by.

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Nothing gets my blood boiling quite like seeing the numerous acts of silence committed by these citizens. People love to victim-blame the Jews by asking the distasteful question of why they didn’t stand up to the oppressor… But a more pressing notion, for me, is why those German citizens, watching idly by in the face of atrocity, didn’t stand up to their fellow Nazis… 

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I was appalled from start to finish with the above. Not only do they watch idly by from a short distance away, but to then FLIRT with them…

You think you’ve reached the peak of cruelty, but then you read on:

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Experiencing numbness in order to remain sane at the sight of tragedy.

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This French girl’s wisdom has stayed in mind, in particular, because the next paragraph describes an out-of-this-world experience wherein Elie Wiesel stumbles upon her eons later:

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But the most painful of all remains to be the relationship portrayed between father and son that keeps both alive in the face of inhumanity.

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Many more sorrowful revelations are shared within the pages of this must-read. Elie Wiesel’s raw written voice commemorates all that must never be forgotten.


My arms gathered with goosebumps at that because the date I was reading this book was April 11th.

I’ll end this review by sharing my favorite Elie Wiesel quote:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”