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Sylvia Rafael

The Life and Death of a Mossad Spy

Ram Oren and Moti Kfir. foreword by Major General Shlomo Gazit, IDF (Ret.)

Publication Year: 2014

"There is a lack of quiet in Sylvia that craves for action.... She knows that she is special and that she possesses unusual and varied abilities." -- From the Mossad's psychological evaluation of Sylvia Rafael

When Moti Kfir, head of the Academy for Special Operations of the Mossad, first interviewed Sylvia Rafael in a coffee shop, he knew she would make a great combatant for Israel's intelligence agency. She was outgoing, resourceful, brilliant, and had a talent for bonding with others. When Kfir warned her that the mysterious job they'd met to discuss could be dangerous, she simply sat back comfortably in her chair and smiled.

Sylvia Rafael is the page-turning account of a young, dedicated agent as told by the man who trained her. Drawing on extensive research and interviews, authors Ram Oren and Moti Kfir tell the story of Rafael's rise to prominence within the Mossad and her intelligence work trying to locate Ali Hassan Salameh -- the leader of Palestine's Black September organization and the mastermind behind the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Her team's misidentification of their mark would eventually lead to her arrest and imprisonment for murder and espionage.

Now available in English for the first time, Sylvia Rafael offers new insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its history, and its human cost. It is a gripping, authentic spy story about a fearless defender of the Jewish people.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Foreign Military Studies


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Title page, Copyright

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Authors' Note

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pp. vii-viii

The story of the Mossad clandestine combatant Sylvia Rafael is based on extensive research, in the course of which countless interviews were conducted and documents gathered regarding her life and work. Due to security restrictions, some of the protagonists'...

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pp. ix-x

Among members of the intelligence community there is a saying: Intelligence is the second oldest profession in the world; the only difference between that and the oldest is that the intelligence profession has lesser morals...


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pp. xi-xii

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1. A Murder Plot

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pp. 1-6

The nine heavily armed men sat around the table. They were dark skinned, dark haired, and stony faced. Copies of a color photo were scattered in front of them. Each of them picked up a copy and studied it carefully. It showed a tall, elegantly dressed woman emerging...

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2. An Unexpected Visitor

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pp. 7-34

Clouds of dust blowing up from the desert hid the sun and the large sheep enclosures of the South African town of Graaff-Reinet. Through the thick fog, a loaded truck slowly made its way along the torrid highway. In the drivers’ cabin sat two men. One gripped the...

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3. Night in an Arab Village

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pp. 35-62

It was evening in late October 1962. The summer heat had passed, and there was a light chill of early autumn in the air. Sylvia was in bed reading The Jewish Wars by Josephus Flavius.1 After a tiring day at school, she had decided to read a chapter or two before falling...

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4. Arrest and Investigation

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pp. 63-108

Georgina Rizk was a pretty, round-faced girl with auburn hair. Her father, a dark-skinned Christian Lebanese tycoon, always appeared in public dressed elegantly; her light-skinned, fair-haired mother was a native of Hungary. The mansion in which the family lived...

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5. Imprisoned in a Refugee Camp

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pp. 109-172

Beirut was aptly called “Paris of the Middle East.” The former French occupation had left behind a fragrance of elegance and style that lingered long after French political influence ended. Beirut boasted many wealthy residents and large Arab banks, pleasure-seeking...

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6. A Man in Women's Clothing

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pp. 173-196

After Sylvia was hospitalized, another combatant from the Special Operations Unit was recruited to take her place. He arrived in Beirut on April 4, 1973. On that same day, he was joined by five more combatants from the Special Operations Unit. They arrived on separate...

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7. A Love Story

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pp. 197-248

The arrested members of the Special Operations Unit were transported in separate patrol wagons to Oslo police headquarters, which took over the investigation after it became clear that the killing in Lillehammer was not drug related. From the moment it emerged...

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A Personal Afterword

Moti Kfir

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pp. 249-252

No story ever truly ends, and no account of a person’s life can be all-inclusive. Did we manage in this book to portray Sylvia Rafael in all her many facets? Do the events described here portray who she truly was? Not necessarily...


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pp. 253-260


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pp. 261-268


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E-ISBN-13: 9780813146966
E-ISBN-10: 0813146968
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813146959

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Foreign Military Studies
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OCLC Number: 885123619
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sylvia Rafael

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Subject Headings

  • Rafael, Sylvia, 1937-2005.
  • Spies -- Israel -- Biography.
  • Assassins -- Israel -- Biography.
  • Israel. Mosad le-modiʻin ṿe-tafḳidim meyuḥadim -- Biography.
  • Salameh, Ali Hassan, -1979 -- Assassination.
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