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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Review: Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom by Ariel Burger

This book was exactly what I was seeking with Elie Wiesel’s memoirs: it summarises Wiesel’s concise teachings on keeping history alive through morality and vulnerability. You’re guaranteed to leave Ariel Burger’s Witness with a changed perspective.

Ariel Burger first met Elie Wiesel at age fifteen. They studied together and taught together. Witness chronicles the intimate conversations between these two men over decades, as Burger sought counsel on matters of intellect, spirituality, and faith, while navigating his own personal journey from boyhood to manhood, from student and assistant to rabbi and, in time, teacher.

In this profoundly hopeful, thought-provoking, and inspiring book, Burger takes us into Elie Wiesel’s classroom, where the art of listening and storytelling conspire to keep memory alive. As Wiesel’s teaching assistant, Burger gives us a front-row seat witnessing these remarkable exchanges in and out of the classroom. The act of listening, of sharing these stories, makes of us, the readers, witnesses.

Witness 1-- bookpsoilsTo start off each part, the author’s stories are interspersed throughout, which made for a well-paced read regarding the bond shared between Elie Wiesel and Ariel Burger.witness 9-- bookspoils

Wiesel comes to provide the home described above in the pages of this book. Like put so well in explaining the meaning of ezer k’negdo:

witness 10-- bookspoilsHe continues to write: “What does it mean to disagree for the sake of the other rather than in order to defeat or silence the other?” Such grandiose ideas to wrap my head around.

I consider it to be a good sign if a book makes me stop every few pages or so to run and share the information I just read with the people surrounding me. Witness makes for an excellent book discussion.

And since this was such an honest and vulnerable read, it feels only right to make my review as such, as well. From sharing the many rabbinical and Hasidic tales that populated Elie Wiesel’s childhood, to discussing the age-old question, “must art emerge from suffering?”; keeping memory alive through reading; Judaism; fanaticism… There are so many thought-provoking ideas introduced through Wiesel’s words that, in order to hold on to them all, I felt like being in one of those money blowing machines*, trying desperately to grasp on to even one fundamental thought so it won’t escape me with time. The amount of notes I took from this book is a bit over the top…

*I’m, of course, referring to one of these bad boys:

So, let’s jump right into the good stuff:

  • When attending one of Elie Wiesel’s lectures becomes a life-changing notion:Witness 2-- bookpsoils This put exactly into words why I make sure to read up on survivor testimonies, instead of reading the words of the enemy.

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  • When discussing the misuse of music and “why knowing the history of works of art is important.” He continues to discuss, in the passage below, how he personally “would not go to a concert of Wagner’s music…”witness 3-- bookspoilsI feel so grateful to see someone address this in writing!!!! Nowadays, people boycott modern public figures left and right for their inappropriate nature but seldom hold up “classic” figures to the same actions… So I was beyond relieved to finally read this passage in black and white on paper. Ever since I listened to a life-changing lesson on the so-called “geniuses” of Western culture (Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Voltaire, and many more) and exposing their utter immoral natures, I make sure to check if what I’m consuming was created “in the service of humanity or its opposite…”
  • Expanding upon the opening quote of “listening to a witness makes you a witness,” which completely flipped my worldview around.

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  • I appreciate how included we felt in the class discussions, each covering through such wide-ranging questions. The movement is rapid from student to student, and we follow it expertly like a ping pong match. Pages flew by when heated topics were introduced, or simply hearing the tales of Wiesel’s childhood.

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The stories that were chosen to be included in here have not left my mind. Including, this short on sanity:Witness 5-- bookpsoils

And this brilliant take on keeping memory alive within us:

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  • This last one is so important and personal to me because of the hidden meaning of birds:witness 11-- bookspoils

There’s so much more I highlighted and would love to share but it all boils down to this: Elie Wiesel was a bright soul put on this earth; we need more people like him in our time. I was beyond disheartened to learn that he had passed away in 2016. Zichrono Livracha.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: November 13th, 2018

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Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore by Vanessa Friedman, Roxane Gay (Foreword)

I was overjoyed at the sight of this in my mail, courtesy of Abrams Books.Dress Like a Woman 1-- bookspoils

What does it mean to dress like a woman?

Today, a woman can be a surgeon, an artist, an astronaut, a military officer, an athlete, a judge, a scientist–the possibilities are endless. The photographs inside this book depict women–both familiar and unknown–who inhibit a fascinating intersection of fashion, gender, class, nationality, and race, proving there is no single answer to this question. With essays by Roxane Gay and Vanessa Friedman, Dress Like a Woman is a comprehensive look at the role of gender and clothing in the workplace.

Beyond the empowering concept set behind Dress Like a Woman, this is the most beautiful book I’ve received to date. The high-quality images produced in here, ranging into the world of women through time and space (literally), astonishes me. The creative people behind this book put all their toil into this compilation, and you can feel it through the detailed pages. WE NEED MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS!!Dress Like a Woman 9-- bookspoilsDress Like a Woman 13-- bookspoilsDress Like a Woman 15-- bookspoilsDress Like a Woman 16-- bookspoilsDress Like a Woman 11-- bookspoils

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ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Dress Like a Womanjust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!