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April 6, 2012 1:50 pm

Famous Spy Eli Cohen Ate Matzah While in Syria

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avatar by Lakkana Nanayakkara

Family portrait including Eli Cohen, with wife and children. Photo:

The Mossad’s greatest agent, Eli Cohen, ate matzah during Passover in Syria according to his widow Nadia Cohen.

She said two Jews of Syrian origin told her that Eli would approach Jews at a marketplace during Passover to taste matzah. Since he was undercover in Syria, Eli did not want to reveal he was Jewish so he reportedly said, “Let me taste some of that thing that you eat only on your week of holiday”.

Eli adopted the false identity of “Kamal Amin Ta’abet”, a rich Arab merchant who had lived in Argentina and then returned to his Syrian homeland. He sent detailed intelligence back to Israel “by radio, secret letters, and occasionally in person.” He developed close ties with the Syrian elite and was seriously considered for the position of Syrian Deputy Minister of Defense.

His most famous achievement was providing critical intelligence that allowed Israel to gain the Golan Heights during the 1967 war.  Eli told a Syrian officer to plant eucalyptus trees near Syrian fortifications “to deceive the Israelis into thinking it was unfortified, as well as to provide shade and beauty for the soldiers stationed there.” This information was passed onto Israel which helped the IDF conquer the Golan Heights in two days.

Cohen was hanged on May 18, 1965 after KGB agents used sophisticated equipment to intercept his radio transmissions.

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