“Patricia Roxborough,” the Mossad’s Christian superspy, buried in Israel

February 21, 2005


1. Mossad's Christian heroine dies (New York Post, Feb. 19, 2005)
2. Israel Harel, The man who made the Mossad (Past dispatch from this list, Feb. 19, 2003)



[Note by Tom Gross]

"Patricia Roxborough," one of the leading female operatives in Israel's external intelligence agency, the Mossad, was this week buried in Israel. She died of cancer, aged 67. After a Christian service and cremation, her ashes were buried in a Jewish ritual on her "adopted" kibbutz, in accordance with her wishes.

Patricia Roxborough -- whose real name was Sylvia Raphael -- was a South African-born Christian with a Jewish father. Posing as a Canadian photojournalist, she was one of the first Mossad agents to penetrate Yasser Arafat's bases in Jordan and Lebanon in the 1960s.

She was closely involved in Israel's partially successful attempts to track down the PLO terrorists responsible for the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

There are a number of other operations she was involved in which have not been made public.


I attach an article below on this matter, by Uri Dan of The New York Post, who is a subscriber to this email list. Uri Dan has close links with the current prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, and is generally well informed on these matters.

I am not attaching other reports because they contain some inaccuracies. (The most obvious example of this is the statement published in the magazine of "The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs' -- a pro-Arab lobby group set up retired state department officials in Washington that is taken seriously by some journalists -- that Sylvia Raphael was killed in the 1980s in Limassol, Cyprus.)

Instead of attaching other articles on Roxborough / Raphael, after Dan's piece, and for the benefit of new subscribers to this list, I attach the summary of the dispatch of exactly two years ago -- February 19, 2003 -- titled Israel Harel, the man who became the Mossad. That dispatch concerned the life and death, age 91, in Tel Aviv, of Israel ("Little Isser") Harel, the legendary second head of the Mossad. Among other things, he was the man who brought in Buenos Aires businessman Ricardo Klement, otherwise known as Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer who presided over the "Final Solution."

-- Tom Gross


Mossad's Christian Heroine Dies
By Uri Dan
New York Post
February 19, 2005


The Mossad, Israel's spy agency, this week brought home to her final rest one of its legendary female operatives, Sylvia Raphael. Only now is it being revealed that she was one of the secret agents who penetrated the PLO bases in Jordan and Lebanon four decades ago when a little-known gang leader named Yasser Arafat was beginning his terrorist attacks.

Her story reads like ... well, like a spy novel.

Raphael was born in 1937 in South Africa to a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother. That made her non-Jewish, technically, but after she and her mother read "Exodus," she became devoted to Israel and went to Tel Aviv to teach English in the early 1960s.

The Mossad spotted the tall, intelligent Raphael as a potential intelligence operative and recruited her.

After a year's training, she was sent to Paris, posing as a freelance journalist with a Canadian passport under the name Patricia Roxburgh.

When Israel decided to hunt down the Black September terrorists who killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, she obtained information that helped commandos find and execute three of them.

Four months later, Raphael's secret career came to an end in an operation that still remains largely a mystery.

She and other agents were assigned to the Norwegian town of Lillehamer in July 1973 to eliminate Hassan Ali Salameh, the Black September operations chief. But other agents mistakenly killed another man -- and Raphael was arrested in the ensuing dragnet.

She was convicted and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in jail. She married her defense lawyer, Annaeus Schjodt, behind bars.

While in prison, she was adopted by an Israeli kibbutz, Ramat Hakovesh, and she lived there briefly after her release. Then she and Schjodt lived together in Norway and South Africa.

A few months ago, cancer-stricken and in a wheelchair, Raphael returned to Ramat Hakovesh and said that's where she wanted to be buried.

And so, after her Christian cremation, her ashes were buried there in a Jewish ritual this week.



(This is the introduction to a previous dispatch, from February 19, 2003.)

[By Tom Gross]

Israel ("Little Isser") Harel, considered to be the true creator of Israel's external intelligence agency, the Mossad, died yesterday in a Tel Aviv hospital, aged 91. (Reuven Shiloah actually set up the Mossad in 1951, but Harel than led it from 1952 and through much of the 1950s and 1960s.)

Harel was credited by Russian, American and British spy chiefs for making the Mossad one of the finest organizations of its kind in the world. In the words of today's headline in Israel's best-selling newspaper Yediot Ahronoth, he was 'The Man who made the Mossad.'

He personally directed the two-year operation to capture Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer who presided over the 'Final Solution,'and after the war had escaped to Argentina where he lived under the pseudonym 'Ricardo Klement'.



Moshe Tabor, the Mossad operative who captured Eichmann, said Harel played an instrumental role in the operation: 'If you were in a room with Isser and a hundred other people, he wouldn't even have caught your eye. He was small and quiet. He had a sharp ability to analyze situations and reach the right conclusions. Isser was the one who coordinated the whole Eichmann operation.'

In a television interview aired long after Eichmann's capture in 1960, Harel said he told (then Israeli) Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion: 'I have brought you a present. Eichmann is here.' Harel's book recounting the abduction 'The House on Garibaldi Street' became a best-seller and was turned into a Hollywood movie.



Among his other triumphs was when he handed James Jesus Angleton, the head of the CIA's counterintelligence division, the full text of Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev's famous 1956 'secret speech'denouncing Stalin, a copy of which the Mossad had obtained.

Born Isser Halperin in Vitebsk, in what is now Belarus (the region in which the famed painter Marc Chagall grew up and depicted in many of his paintings), Harel moved with his family to Latvia in 1922 and to Palestine in 1929. He fought for the British against the Nazis in the 1940s, while at the same time gathering intelligence for the Haganah against the British who then controlled Palestine. He became head of Haganah intelligence in 1944, and was appointed deputy head of the Mossad in 1952.



Among the agents under Harel's command were:

* Shula Cohen, the so-called 'Mata Hari of the Middle East,' who ran Mossad operations in Beirut in the 1950s and 60s
* Elie Cohen, whose information was critical in helping Israel win the Six Day War, and who was hanged in Damascus after being caught
* Wolfgang Lotz, the so-called 'Champagne spy,'who lived in Cairo and befriended many senior Egyptian army officers. Lotz, who was born in Mannheim, Germany, and was partly Jewish but not circumcised, also took an Israeli name: Ze'ev Gur-Aryeh

-- Tom Gross

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.