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What the Mossad Didn't Know

What the Mossad Didn't Know


The first Lebanon War in 1982 was a unique war, during which the Israel Defense Forces reached Beirut and conquered it, causing the expulsion of the Palestinian forces from Lebanon.

PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and his men went to Tunisia and established their command there. At that time, there was a small community of about five thousand Jews in Tunisia.

After analyzing the facts, we in the Mossad came to the conclusion that, as a result these events, the Jews of Tunisia were in greater danger than before, and we felt that the time had come to evacuate this community to Israel.

The Jews of Tunisia were in greater danger than before, and we felt that the time had come to evacuate this community to Israel

Since the government of Israel was established, it has made it a policy to take responsibility for the fate of Jews living in foreign countries where they might be in danger. We feel that this is the responsibility of the State of Israel because it is the state of the Jewish nation. And since the State of Israel has the power and the ability to intervene overseas when needed, it has the right and the obligation to do so.

Thus, we began to work with the Jews in Tunisia. We sent people there to convince them to leave. But very quickly we encountered a problem. We identified an authority that was telling the Jews not to leave Tunisia. This was not a local authority, not the Tunisian government. It was the community rabbi! His name was Rabbi Nisson Pinson, and he was encouraging the Jews to stay in Tunisia.

We quickly understood that Rabbi Pinson’s authority flowed from the Rebbe, the leader of the Chabad movement, of which Rabbi Pinson was a part, and we reached the determination that we needed to see the Rebbe to explain the situation to him, so that he’d understand and encourage the Jews to leave.

Now, my interaction with Chabad goes back many years. I served in the Israeli embassy in Washington from 1970 to 1974. In the context of my service there, I visited New York many times together with my wife and children. I visited the Rebbe’s court and was present at his farbrengens.

The consul general of Israel, Naftali Lavi, arranged a meeting with the Rebbe for me.

I flew in from Israel and I arrived at the Chabad Headquarters for my appointment, which was scheduled for one or two o’clock in the morning. As I sat in the waiting room, I noticed the others who were awaiting their turn with the Rebbe, a mixed group of people. Each had their own reason for being there—one came for advice, another for direction, and another for his approval of some decision they had made. I waited. People went in and out, and I waited.

Finally, I was called inside and I met with the Rebbe. The two of us talked, he and myself, and no one else was in that meeting. To the best of my recollection, the meeting lasted about two hours. It began with a discussion of the situation of Tunisian Jewry. And the Rebbe immediately told me that he was the one who gave the directive not to leave. He had his own intelligence-gathering network with various sources, including the U.S. government.

He had checked his information and had come to the conclusion that there was no special danger to the Jews of Tunisia, so he had directed them not to leave. He said, “I believe we must sustain, to the extent possible, every Jewish community around the world. I recognize the role of the State of Israel—I personally support aliyah, and I’ve instructed certain families to make aliyah, but we mustn’t just eliminate a Jewish community.”

It was obvious that here was a man of the larger world, not of a small chassidic court . . .

I explained to the Rebbe why we in Israel saw the situation differently. But, in the end, we remained with our different opinions—he was convinced that the Jews were in no special danger, and I that they were.

In our conversation it was apparent that he had a tremendous knowledge in the area of intelligence and intelligence-gathering. And his connections were vast. He had connections with the White House and the State Department. He had connections in other places in the world with the powers that be. It was obvious that here was a man of the larger world, not of a small chassidic court.

He was also a man with a vision—a big vision—and he did not abandon that vision even for a moment. And his vision was expressed not only in theory, but also in action—sending his emissaries all over the world to serve the Jewish nation.

There is no doubt that in many places in the world Chabad emissaries play a very important role in the continued existence of the Jewish people, and in the continued existed of the Jewish nation as a whole. When I served as Israel’s ambassador to the European Union in Brussels, I met the emissaries of Chabad who worked there. And I also met those in Riga and in Sydney. And I believe that if Chabad did not exist, the situation of the continuity of the Jewish nation would be much worse. This tremendous contribution that Chabad is making—no other movement in the world gives such a contribution to our people. And in my eyes, this is a great blessing.

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In honor of our dear Rebbe, by the Jacobs family.

Efraim Halevy
Efraim Halevy served as the director of the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency. He was interviewed at his home in August, 2009.
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amichai MN July 25, 2014

Bless Mosaad. Brave people in such times of crisis, I've researched them, and they are top notch strategists. They make US Special forces look like the girl scouts of America.
(and yes, I don't care what anybody thinks.) Reply

Anonymous melbourne, florida via July 19, 2013

arab spring 30 years on With the salafists growing in power in Tunisia, it doesn't seem like it's a good place for Jews to live anymore. The Jewish community in Tunisia is growing gray and will eventually die out. Those who left in the 80's saw the handwriting on the wall and made a life for their descendants and themselves elsewhere. Reply

K. Khan Lahore, Pakistan July 19, 2013

Israel's greatest strength is the untapped potential of the Jewish Diaspora communities. Israel's greatest strength is the untapped potential of the Jewish Diaspora communities. As long as these communities are able to operate freely and recognized communities in their host country, Israel will continue to seek moral support from these countries.

I can fully understand this great article. There is more than is usually found in reports of organizations.

The US State Dept does not recognize the Jewish people living in Pakistan and Kashmir (for some reason best known to G-d). After the destruction of Karachi Temple and the subsequent Aliya of many families, there was an official absence of Jews in Pakistan and Kashmir. Today, the Jewish people ARE living in Pakistan and Kashmir. Some as Registered Jews and most as non-registered Jews. All of them have something in common. To work to promote a greater acceptance of Israel and Jews in Pakistan and Kashmir.

May HaShem Bless us all, and Team Chabad for bringing the Jewish communities living all over the world together. Reply

Anonymous July 18, 2013

Making responsible, balanced decisions... Deeply impressed by the light this story sheds on the very care of the Rebbe and the value given to sustain a (Jewish) community; understand it's important place within the subtle structure of a broader society (in this case in Tunisia). To understand that it's not good to abruptly disconnect it and tear it away from it (as long it's not truly life-threatening). As I believe doing aliyah is to be a choice coming from inward-out; naturally. It's great to see the Rebbe did actively encourage Jews to do aliyah and yet make such responsible, balanced decisions. Reply

About the Publisher
JEM: My Encounter with the Rebbe
Jewish Educational Media's My Encounter with the Rebbe oral history project is dedicated to documenting the life of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
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