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Photographs taken by Israeli Mossad agent Sylvia Rafael, which remained hidden for years, are on display

Photographs taken by Israeli Mossad agent Sylvia Rafael, which remained hidden for years, are on display
Photographs taken by Israeli Mossad agent Sylvia Rafael, which remained hidden for years, are on display

On October 8, 1965, the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad presented to the prime minister a plan to assassinate several prominent Palestinian militants stationed in Beirut with letter bombs. According to the minutes seen by The New York Times, Meir Amit, head of Mossad at the time, told Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, “A woman will take over the task.”

The agent would go to Beirut, drop the bombs in a mailbox. At a later meeting, Amit told the prime minister that the female agent was a press photographer with a Canadian passport and working for a French agency called Dalmas.


The woman mentioned was Sylvia Rafael. His face would later be revealed when he was arrested as a member of the Mossad team who planned to kill another top Palestinian militant in Norway but shot the wrong man.

His work as a press photographer also reveals Rafael’s access to countries where foreigners are generally not welcome, secret training camps used by Palestinian militants, Arab leaders, and even some Hollywood stars. In the heart of one of Israel’s best-preserved facilities, photos locked in a suitcase in the Mossad archive for decades were made public this week at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.

The curators of the exhibition say that Rafael’s photography masks espionage, but the shots he takes show his talent. Among them are portraits of leaders such as Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his successor Anwar Sadat. The leaders don’t seem to realize that they are being photographed.


Scenes from daily life in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan are also on display. These places are forbidden to any Israeli, let alone a Mossad agent. For Rafael, he also captured moments of flooding in Yemen and social unrest in Djibouti. Among the Hollywood stars he photographed are Danny Kaye, Yul Brynner, Vanessa Redgrave and Eli Wallach.

Moti Kfir, who was the commander of the Mossad’s Secret Operations Academy at the time Rafael was recruited and trained. “Sylvia was special. He had an extraordinary ability to relate to anyone and make them feel like they were their best friend.” says.


Ilan Schwarz, one of the curators of the exhibition, “She was a woman who broke convention at a very young age, left her comfort zone and agreed to sacrifice a lot. When I learned that he used his identity as a photographer in war zones in Africa and the Middle East, I thought that if we could locate these photos, they would have great artistic value.” he tells.

Schwarz reported that the photos came into the hands of the Mossad shortly after Rafael was arrested in Norway in 1973. They then applied to the Mossad and requested that the collection be made available. Some photos are still classified as top secret by the Mossad. Rafael himself, who died in 2005, also appears in some frames. Intelligence officer Kfir says such self-portraits are commonly used by agents trying to take pictures of certain places or people without arousing suspicion.

The article is in Turkish

Tags: Photographs Israeli Mossad agent Sylvia Rafael remained hidden years display

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