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Israeli Intelligence Chief Meets the Rebbe

Israeli Intelligence Chief Meets the Rebbe

Yaakov Peri. Photos: Kfar Chabad Magazine
Yaakov Peri. Photos: Kfar Chabad Magazine

It seemed only natural that one of my first missions after being appointed head of the Israeli General Security Service (known as the Shabak) in 1988 would be to travel to the United States. A short while after I arrived at the hotel in New York, several Chabad-Lubavitch men, “Chabadniks,” approached me and asked if I wanted to the meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

At that time, because of my position as head of the Israeli intelligence and security services, my name and picture were considered top secret. I had no idea how the young men recognized me. Until today, only they know!

I explained that although I would not have the chance during this visit, on my next trip I would consider it a great honor and merit to meet the Rebbe. Remarkably, two months later the same two individuals were waiting for me at my hotel. It seemed they knew my schedule better than my assistants!

Later that night they took me to meet with the Rebbe. The audience took place quietly, at the Rebbe’s private residence, and not in his office at Lubavitch World Headquarters.

I felt that the Rebbe was not only someone I could rely on for spiritual guidance, but also someone I could fully trust with Israeli security concerns. Considering my position at the time, that was not something I could take lightly. There, the Rebbe’s envoy to Israeli intelligence and security, Rabbi Binyomin Klein, waited for me. The Rebbe was sitting at a table with Jewish scholarly works spread out. In a soft voice he offered me a drink. I declined.

The Rebbe hinted to those in the room that he would like to speak to me alone. Everyone left.

The first thing that struck me was the Rebbe’s bright face, his expression and his eyes. These are not things that one forgets.

At the Rebbe’s request, I related a short summary of my life experiences. Then the Rebbe asked my opinion about the situation in Israel at the time—1989, the beginning of the first intifada.

I was a surprised that the Rebbe did not ask anything about the goals and operations of the Shabak. It was later explained to me that the Rebbe already knew exactly what we did.

I began to confide in the Rebbe all of my worries about the missions I was involved in at the time. I discussed the need for change in Israel’s approach to the intifada.

I explained my vision and expectation of the Israeli defense in regards to terror in Israel and outside of it. We discussed international terror, the Palestinian situation, and my vision and expectations of the Israel Defense Forces.

Sitting there, I felt that the Rebbe was not only someone I could rely on for spiritual guidance, but also someone I could fully trust with Israeli security concerns. Considering my position at the time, that was not something I could take lightly.

What shocked me most was the Rebbe’s knowledge of the minute details of the Israeli military. He expressed a deep insight and understanding of terrorism, and everything he mentioned was precise in its facts and in its analysis.

Terrorism Analyses

Halfway through our conversation the Rebbe dissected, with analytic precision, the geopolitical situation between Israel and the rest of the world.

The Rebbe also spoke about fanatical Islam, suggesting that because some saw a lack of boundaries in this religion, ultimately they would express themselves through acts of terror. Unfortunately, this proved true.

About the Cold War, the Rebbe predicted that a resolution will be reached. And, in fact, not long after our meeting, that prediction came to fruition.

The Rebbe mentioned the fate, suffering and eternity of the Jewish nation, with particular attention to the Holocaust. He spoke more about the Jewish nation than about the State of Israel.

The Rebbe addressed the underlying source of conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He theorized that through understanding the undercurrent, one can find a solution to the current situation.

At the end of the meeting I asked the Rebbe for a blessing, and the Rebbe blessed me, my family and all those who worked with me in the defense department.

As I left, the Rebbe offered, “Whenever you come to the United States, my home is open to you, the same way you are assisting the Jewish nation.”

Upon my return to Israel I gathered everyone from General Security Services and gave them an overview of my conversation with the Rebbe, along with his blessings.

I feel fortunate to have merited meeting the Rebbe. I have met many incredible people in my lifetime, but never before or since have I met a person like the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory.

Adapted from a July, 2011, speech in Hebrew.

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