Desert tawny owl: New species of bird discovered in Israel: here.
The Dutch name of this species is Palestijnse bosuil, Palestinian tawny owl.
Are Saudi religious misogynists unique in the world? Unfortunately not.
Though women cannot drive cars in Saudi Arabia, recently they were allowed to ride motorbikes and bicycles (though only in restricted recreational areas).
Even that small concession to women’s rights seems to be too much for some religious fanatics in Israel.
From daily The Independent in Britain:
Ultra-orthodox Israeli rabbi bans girls over five from riding bikes because it is ‘provocative’
Ruling is latest in series of restrictions imposed on groups of Haredis
Friday 3 June 2016
An ultra-orthodox Jewish leader has reportedly banned girls aged five and older in some areas of Israel from riding bicycles – claiming it is “immodest”.
The rabbi of the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Nahloat distributed the stringent decree to his followers in synagogues across the area.
He had said young girls riding bicycles could “cause serious damage to their modesty” and that bicycle seats caused young girls to sit in a way men found “provocative”, according to the Arutz Sheva 7 website.
The ruling said: “We inform parents that they are obligated to forbid their daughters from age five and up from acting in this illegitimate way.”
Those affected by the ruling are members of the ultra-orthodox Haredi branch of Judaism.
In December ultra-orthodox rabbis requested women in Israeli city Bnei Brak refrain from studying in higher education, according to Yeshida World News website.
They claimed institutions which teach secular subjects presented a real danger, and that girls and women should not study.
Haredi leaders have also attempted to effectively ban the internet from their communities, even declaring smartphones non-kosher.
- As a rabbi, I am worried about the damage being done to my community by ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools
- Jewish woman made to move aeroplane seats by Ultra-orthodox man says rule is ‘not in the Torah’
- What it’s like to live in- and leave- the ultra-orthodox sect that banned women driving
This video says about itself:
Divers Discovered a Spectacular, Ancient and Important Cargo of a Shipwreck – Caesarea
16 May 2016
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists diving in the ancient harbor in the Caesarea National Park recovered beautiful statues, thousands of coins 1,600 years old and other finds from the seabed. This is the largest assemblage of marine artifacts to be recovered in the past thirty years.
From the Israel Antiquities Authority:
Divers Discovered a Spectacular, Ancient and Important Cargo of a Shipwreck
A fortuitous discovery by two divers in the ancient port of Caesarea in the Caesarea National Park before the Passover holiday led to the exposure of a large, spectacular and beautiful ancient marine cargo of a merchant ship that sank during the Late Roman period 1,600 years ago.
As soon as they emerged from the water divers Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra‘anan of Ra‘anana contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and reported the discovery and removal of several ancient items from the sea.
A joint dive at the site together with IAA archaeologists revealed that an extensive portion of the seabed had been cleared of sand and the remains of a ship were left uncovered on the sea bottom: iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel. An underwater salvage survey conducted in recent weeks with the assistance of many divers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and volunteers using advanced equipment discovered numerous items that were part of the ship’s cargo.
Many of the artifacts are bronze and in an extraordinary state of preservation: a bronze lamp depicting the image of the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, a lamp in the image of the head of an African slave, fragments of three life-size bronze cast statues, objects fashioned in the shape of animals such as a whale, a bronze faucet in the form of a wild boar with a swan on its head, etc. In addition, fragments of large jars were found that were used for carrying drinking water for the crew in the ship and for transportation at sea. One of the biggest surprises in particular was the discovery of two metallic lumps composed of thousands of coins weighing c. 20 kilograms which was in the form of the pottery vessel in which they were transported.
This discovery comes a year after the exposure of a treasure of gold Fatimid coins by divers and the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is currently on display for the public in the “Time Travel” presentations in the Caesarea harbor.
According to Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dror Planer, deputy director of the unit, “These are extremely exciting finds, which apart from their extraordinary beauty, are of historical significance. The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks”. A preliminary study of the iron anchors suggests there was an attempt to stop the drifting vessel before it reached shore by casting anchors into the sea; however, these broke – evidence of the power of the waves and the wind which the ship was caught up in”. Sharvit and Planer stress, “A marine assemblage such as this has not been found in Israel in the past thirty years. Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity. When we find bronze artifacts it usually occurs at sea. Because these statues were wrecked together with the ship, they sank in the water and were thus ‘saved’ from the recycling process”. Sharvit and Planer added, “In the many marine excavations that have been carried out in Caesarea only very small number of bronze statues have been found, whereas in the current cargo a wealth of spectacular statues were found that were in the city and were removed from it by way of sea. The sand protected the statues; consequently they are in an amazing state of preservation – as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago”. The coins that were discovered bear the image of the emperor Constantine who ruled the Western Roman Empire (312–324 CE) and was later known as Constantine the Great, ruler of the Roman Empire (324–337 CE), and of Licinius, an emperor who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire and was a rival of Constantine, until his downfall in a battle that was waged between the two rulers.
According [to] Sharvit and Planer, “The range of finds recovered from the sea reflects the large volume of trade and the status of Caesarea’s harbor during this time, which was known as period of economic and commercial stability in the wake of the stability of the Roman Empire. The crew of the shipwreck lived in a fascinating time in history that greatly influenced humanity – the period when Christianity was on its way to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire. It was at this time that Emperor Constantine put a halt to the policy of persecuting Christians, and the faithful in Caesarea, as well as elsewhere in the Roman Empire, were given the legitimacy to practice their belief through the famous Edict of Milan that proclaimed Christianity was no longer a banned religion.”
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
General under fire for talking of nazi leanings in Israel
Friday 6th May 2016
ISRAEL’S political and military Establishment decried army deputy chief of staff Major General Yair Golan yesterday for saying he saw reflections of events in nazi Germany in today’s Israel.
Maj Gen Golan told a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on Wednesday evening that, “if there is something that frightens me in Holocaust remembrance, it is ghastly trends that took place in Europe in general, and in Germany specifically, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding a sign of them here among us today in 2016.”
He added that, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israelis should “discuss our ability to uproot from among us buds of intolerance, buds of violence, buds of self-destruction on the path to ethical deterioration.”
Politicians have attacked the decision to charge with manslaughter a soldier filmed shooting dead a wounded Palestinian lying on the ground in the occupied West Bank, but the general pointed out: “Not everything we do is right.”
He suggested, nonetheless, that Israel’s army does not cover up “problematic activity.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett demanded that Maj Gen Golan correct his statement, lest he be seen as comparing Israeli soldiers to nazis and giving credence to Holocaust deniers.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called him “a little confused,” claiming that his statement reflected “a lack of understanding, if not a disrespect, of the Holocaust.”
Real ‘credence to Holocaust deniers’ and ‘disrespect of the Holocaust’ came from Israeli right-wing Prime Minister Netanyahu; who whitewashed Adolf Hitler’s guilt of the Shoah, blaming it on Palestinians instead.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog countered by praising Maj Gen Golan as brave, adding: “This is what ethics and responsibility sound like.”
Israel came to a two-minute standstill yesterday morning, as citizens silently honoured those slaughtered by the nazis.
A quote from General Golan’s speech:
“After all, there is nothing simpler and easier than hating the foreigner, there is nothing easier and simpler than arousing fears and intimidating, there is nothing easier and simpler than becoming bestial, forgoing principles and becoming smug.”
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his government have forced Major General Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), to retract his statement drawing parallels between recent developments in Israeli society and processes that unfolded in Europe before the Holocaust: here.
This video says about itself:
Nazi Hunters – Season 1, Episode 4 – Erich Priebke
6 July 2015
As one of the highest-ranking Gestapo officers in Rome during the war, Erich Priebke is responsible for one of Italy’s worst atrocities. He later escapes to Argentina where he eludes justice for fifty years. That is, until a high-profile team of American TV journalists stumbles onto his trail. They find Priebke in a German-speaking alpine resort town in the Andes. But can they capture him on camera? And will a mass murderer be brought to justice?
From daily Haaretz in Israel:
The Strange Case of a Nazi Who Became an Israeli Hitman
27 March 2016
The Strange Case of a Nazi Who Became an Israeli Hitman
The Forward and Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman
On September 11, 1962, a German scientist vanished. The basic facts were simple: Heinz Krug had been at his office, and he never came home.
The only other salient detail known to police in Munich was that Krug commuted to Cairo frequently. He was one of dozens of Nazi rocket experts who had been hired by Egypt to develop advanced weapons for that country.
HaBoker, a now defunct Israeli newspaper, surprisingly claimed to have the explanation: The Egyptians kidnapped Krug to prevent him from doing business with Israel.
But that somewhat clumsy leak was an attempt by Israel to divert investigators from digging too deeply into the case — not that they ever would have found the 49-year-old scientist.
We can now report — based on interviews with former Mossad officers and with Israelis who have access to the Mossad’s archived secrets from half a century ago — that Krug was murdered as part of an Israeli espionage plot to intimidate the German scientists working for Egypt.
Moreover, the most astounding revelation is the Mossad agent who fired the fatal gunshots: Otto Skorzeny, one of the Israeli spy agency’s most valuable assets, was a former lieutenant colonel in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS and one of Adolf Hitler’s personal favorites among the party’s commando leaders. The Führer, in fact, awarded Skorzeny the army’s most prestigious medal, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, for leading the rescue operation that plucked his friend Benito Mussolini out from the hands of his captors.
But that was then. By 1962, according to our sources — who spoke only on the promise that they not be identified — Skorzeny had a different employer. The story of how that came to be is one of the most important untold tales in the archives of the Mossad, the agency whose full name, translated from Hebrew, is “The Institute for Intelligence and Special Missions.”
Key to understanding the story is that the Mossad had made stopping German scientists then working on Egypt’s rocket program one of its top priorities. For several months before his death, in fact, Krug, along with other Germans who were working in Egypt’s rocket-building industry, had received threatening messages. When in Germany, they got phone calls in the middle of the night, telling them to quit the Egyptian program. When in Egypt, some were sent letter bombs — and several people were injured by the explosions.
Krug, as it happens, was near the top of the Mossad’s target list.
During the war that ended 17 years earlier, Krug was part of a team of superstars at Peenemünde, the military test range on the coast of the Baltic Sea, where top German scientists toiled in the service of Hitler and the Third Reich. The team, led by Wernher von Braun, was proud to have engineered the rockets for the Blitz that nearly defeated England. Its wider ambitions included missiles that could fly a lot farther, with greater accuracy and more destructive power.
According to Mossad research, a decade after the war ended, von Braun invited Krug and other former colleagues to join him in America. Von Braun, his war record practically expunged, was leading a missile development program for the United States. He even became one of the fathers of the NASA space exploration program. Krug opted for another, seemingly more lucrative option: joining other scientists from the Peenemünde group — led by the German professor Wolfgang Pilz, whom he greatly admired — in Egypt. They would set up a secret strategic missile program for that Arab country.
In the Israelis’ view, Krug had to know that Israel, the country where so many Holocaust survivors had found refuge, was the intended target of his new masters’ military capabilities. A committed Nazi would see this as an opportunity to continue the ghastly mission of exterminating the Jewish people.
The threatening notes and phone calls, however, were driving Krug crazy. He and his colleagues knew that the threats were from Israelis. It was obvious. In 1960, Israeli agents had kidnapped Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief administrators of the Holocaust, in far-off Argentina. The Israelis astonishingly smuggled the Nazi to Jerusalem, where he was put on trial. Eichmann was hanged on May 31, 1962.
It was reasonable for Krug to feel that a Mossad noose might be tightening around his neck, too. That was why he summoned help: a Nazi hero who was considered the best of the best in Hitler’s heyday.
On the day he vanished, according to our new information from reliable sources, Krug left his office to meet Skorzeny, the man he felt would be his savior.
Skorzeny, then 54 years old, was quite simply a legend. A dashing, innovative military man who grew up in Austria — famous for a long scar on the left side of his face, the result of his overly exuberant swordplay while fencing as a youth— he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS. Thanks to Skorzeny’s exploits as a guerrilla commander, Hitler recognized that he had a man who would go above and beyond, and stop at nothing, to complete a mission.
The colonel’s feats during the war inspired Germans and the grudging respect of Germany’s enemies. American and British military intelligence labeled Skorzeny “the most dangerous man in Europe.”
Krug contacted Skorzeny in the hope that the great hero — then living in Spain — could create a strategy to keep the scientists safe.
The two men were in Krug’s white Mercedes, driving north out of Munich, and Skorzeny said that as a first step he had arranged for three bodyguards. He said they were in a car directly behind and would accompany them to a safe place in a forest for a chat. Krug was murdered, then and there, without so much as a formal indictment or death sentence. The man who pulled the trigger was none other than the famous Nazi war hero. Israel’s espionage agency had managed to turn Otto Skorzeny into a secret agent for the Jewish state.
After Krug was shot, the three Israelis poured acid on his body, waited awhile and then buried what was left in a hole they had dug beforehand. They covered the makeshift grave with lime, so that search dogs — and wild animals — would never pick up the scent of human remains.
The troika that coordinated this extrajudicial execution was led by a future prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, who was then head of the Mossad’s special operations unit. One of the others was Zvi “Peter” Malkin, who had tackled Eichmann in Argentina and in later life would enter the art world as a New York-based painter. Supervising from a distance was Yosef “Joe” Raanan, who was the secret agency’s senior officer in Germany. All three had lost large numbers of family members among the 6 million Jews murdered by the cruel, continent-wide genocide that Eichmann had managed.
Israel’s motivation in working with a man such as Skorzeny was clear: to get as close as possible to Nazis who were helping Egypt plot a new Holocaust.
The Mossad’s playbook for protecting Israel and the Jewish people has no preordained rules or limits. The agency’s spies have evaded the legal systems in a host of countries for the purpose of liquidating Israel’s enemies: Palestinian terrorists, Iranian scientists, and even a Canadian arms inventor named Gerald Bull, who worked for Saddam Hussein until bullets ended his career in Brussels in 1990. Mossad agents in Lillehammer, Norway, even killed a Moroccan waiter in the mistaken belief that he was the mastermind behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by the terrorist group known as Black September. Ahmed Bouchikhi was shot down in 1973 as he left a movie theatre with his pregnant wife. The Israeli government later paid compensation to her without officially admitting wrongdoing. The botched mission delayed further Mossad assassinations, but it did not end them.
To get to unexpected places on these improbable missions, the Mossad has sometimes found itself working with unsavory partners. When short-term alliances could help, the Israelis were willing to dance with the proverbial devil, if that is what seemed necessary.
But why did Skorzeny work with the Mossad?
He was born in Vienna in June 1908, to a middle-class family proud of its military service for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From an early age he seemed fearless, bold and talented at weaving false, complex tales that deceived people in myriad ways. These were essential requirements for a commando officer at war, and certainly valuable qualities for the Mossad.
He joined Austria’s branch of the Nazi Party in 1931, when he was 23, served in its armed militia, the SA, and enthusiastically worshipped Hitler. The führer was elected chancellor of Germany in 1933 and then seized Austria in 1938. When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 and World War II broke out, Skorzeny left his construction firm and volunteered — not for the regular army, the Wehrmacht, but for the Leibstandarte SS Panzer division that served as Hitler’s personal bodyguard force.
Skorzeny, in a memoir written after the war was over, told of his years of SS service as though they were almost bloodless travels in occupied Poland, Holland and France. His activities could not have been as innocuous as his book made them seem. He took part in battles in Russia and Poland, and certainly the Israelis believed it was very likely that he was involved in exterminating Jews. The Waffen-SS, after all, was not the regular army; it was the military arm of the Nazi Party and its genocidal plan.
His most famous and daring mission was in September 1943: leading commandos who flew engineless gliders to reach an Italian mountaintop resort to rescue Hitler’s friend and ally, the recently ousted Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and spirit him away under harrowing conditions.
This was the escapade that earned Skorzeny his promotion to lieutenant colonel — and operational control of Hitler’s SS Special Forces. Hitler also rewarded him with several hours of face-to-face conversation, along with the coveted Knight’s Cross. But it was far from his only coup.
In September 1944, when Hungary’s dictator, Admiral Miklos Horthy, a Nazi ally, was on the verge of suing for peace with Russia as Axis fortunes plunged, Skorzeny led a contingent of Special Forces into Budapest to kidnap Horthy and replace his government with the more hard-line Fascist Arrow Cross regime. That regime, in turn, went on to kill or to deport to concentration camps tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews who had managed to survive the war up to that point.
Also in 1944, Skorzeny handpicked 150 soldiers, including some who spoke fair to excellent English in a bold plan to fend off the Allies after they landed in Normandy on D-Day in June. With the Allies advancing through France, Skorzeny dressed his men in captured U.S. uniforms, and procured captured American tanks for them to use in attacking and confusing Allied troops from behind their own lines.
The bold deception — including the act of stealing U.S. soldiers’ property — plunged Skorzeny into two years of interrogation, imprisonment and trial after the war ended. Eventually, Allied military judges acquitted him in 1947. Once again, the world’s newspapers headlined him as Europe’s most dangerous man. He enjoyed the fame, and published his memoirs in various editions and many languages, including the 1957 book “Skorzeny’s Special Missions: The Autobiography of Hitler’s Commando Ace,” published by Greenhill Books. He spun some tall-tale hyperbole in the books, and definitely downplayed his contacts with the most bloodthirsty Nazi leaders. When telling of his many conversations with Hitler, he described the dictator as a caring and attentive military strategist.
There was much that Skorzeny did not reveal, including how he escaped from the American military authorities who held him for a third year after his acquittal. Prosecutors were considering more charges against him in the Nuremberg tribunals, but during one transfer he was able to escape — reputedly with the help of former SS soldiers wearing American military police uniforms.
Skorzeny’s escape was also rumored to have been assisted by the CIA’s predecessor agency, the Office of Special Services, for which he did some work after the war. It is certainly notable that he was allowed to settle in Spain — a paradise for Nazi war veterans, with protection from the pro-Western Fascist, Generalissimo Francisco Franco. In the years that followed he did some advisory work for President Juan Peron in Argentina and for Egypt’s government. It was during this period that Skorzeny became friendly with the Egyptian officers who were running the missile program and employing German experts.
In Israel, a Mossad planning team started to work on where it could be best to find and kill Skorzeny. But the head of the agency, Isser Harel, had a bolder plan: Instead of killing him, snare him.
Mossad officials had known for some time that to target the German scientists, they needed an inside man in the target group. In effect, the Mossad needed a Nazi.
The Israelis would never find a Nazi they could trust, but they saw a Nazi they could count on: someone thorough and determined, with a record of success in executing innovative plans, and skilled at keeping secrets. The seemingly bizarre decision to recruit Skorzeny came with some personal pain, because the task was entrusted to Raanan, who was also born in Vienna and had barely escaped the Holocaust. As an Austrian Jew, his name was originally Kurt Weisman. After the Nazis took over in 1938, he was sent — at age 16 — to British-ruled Palestine. His mother and younger brother stayed in Europe and perished.
Like many Jews in Palestine, Kurt Weisman joined the British military looking for a chance to strike back at Germany. He served in the Royal Air Force. After the creation of Israel in 1948, he followed the trend of taking on a Hebrew name, and as Joe Raanan he was among the first pilots in the new nation’s tiny air force. The young man rapidly became an airbase commander and later the air force’s intelligence chief.
Raanan’s unique résumé, including some work he did for the RAF in psychological warfare, attracted the attention of Harel, who signed him up for the Mossad in 1957. A few years later, Raanan was sent to Germany to direct the secret agency’s operations there — with a special focus on the German scientists in Egypt. Thus it was Raanan who had to devise and command an operation to establish contact with Skorzeny, the famous Nazi commando.
The Israeli spy found it difficult to get over his reluctance, but when ordered, he assembled a team that traveled to Spain for “pre-action intelligence.” Its members observed Skorzeny, his home, his workplace and his daily routines. The team included a German woman in her late 20s who was not a trained, full-time Mossad agent but a “helper.” Known by the Hebrew label “saayanit” (or “saayan” if a male), this team member was like an extra in a grandly theatrical movie, playing whatever role might be required. A saayanit would often pose as the girlfriend of an undercover Mossad combatant.
Internal Mossad reports later gave her name as Anke and described her as pretty, vivacious and truly flirtatious. That would be perfect for the job at hand — a couples game.
One evening in the early months of 1962, the affluent and ruggedly handsome — though scarred — Skorzeny was in a luxurious bar in Madrid with his significantly younger wife, Ilse von Finckenstein. Her own Nazi credentials were impeccable; she was the niece of Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler’s talented finance minister.
They had a few cocktails and were relaxing, when the bartender introduced them to a German-speaking couple he had been serving. The woman was pretty and in her late 20s, and her escort was a well-dressed man of around 40. They were German tourists, they said, but they also told a distressing story: that they had just survived a harrowing street robbery.
They spoke perfect German, of course, the man with a bit of an Austrian accent, like Skorzeny’s. They gave their false names, but in reality they were, respectively, a Mossad agent whose name must still be kept secret and his “helper,” Anke.
There were more drinks, then somewhat flamboyant flirting, and soon Skorzeny’s wife invited the young couple, who had lost everything — money, passports and luggage — to stay the night at their sumptuous villa. There was just something irresistible about the newcomers. A sense of sexual intimacy between the two couples was in the air. After the four entered the house, however, at a crucial moment when the playful flirting reached the point where it seemed time to pair off, Skorzeny — the charming host — pulled a gun on the young couple and declared: “I know who you are, and I know why you’re here. You are Mossad, and you’ve come to kill me.”
The young couple did not even flinch. The man said: “You are half-right. We are from Mossad, but if we had come to kill you, you would have been dead weeks ago.”
“Or maybe,” Skorzeny said, “I would rather just kill you.”
Anke spoke up. “If you kill us, the ones who come next won’t bother to have a drink with you. You won’t even see their faces before they blow out your brains. Our offer to you is just for you to help us.”
After a long minute that felt like an hour, Skorzeny did not lower his gun, but he asked: “What kind of help? You need something done?” The Mossad officer — who even now is not being named by colleagues — told Skorzeny that Israel needed information and would pay him handsomely.
Hitler’s favorite commando paused for a few moments to think, and then surprised the Israeli by saying: “Money doesn’t interest me. I have enough.”
The Mossad man was further surprised to hear Skorzeny name something that he did want: “I need for Wiesenthal to remove my name from his list.” Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Vienna-based Nazi-hunter, had Skorzeny listed as a war criminal, but now the accused was insisting he had not committed any crimes.
The Israeli did not believe any senior Nazi officer’s claim of innocence, but recruiting an agent for an espionage mission calls for well-timed lies and deception. “Okay,” he said, “that will be done. We’ll take care of that.”
Skorzeny finally lowered his weapon, and the two men shook hands. The Mossad man concealed his disgust.
“I knew that the whole story about you being robbed was bogus,” Skorzeny said, with the boastful smile of a fellow intelligence professional. “Just a cover story.”
The next step to draw him in was to bring him to Israel. His Mossad handler, Raanan, secretly arranged a flight to Tel Aviv, where Skorzeny was introduced to Harel. The Nazi was questioned and also received more specific instructions and guidelines. During this visit, Skorzeny was taken to Yad Vashem, the museum in Jerusalem dedicated to the memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The Nazi was silent and seemed respectful. There was a strange moment there when a war survivor pointed to Skorzeny and singled him out by name as “a war criminal.”
Raanan, as skilled an actor as any spy must be, smiled at the Jewish man and softly said: “No, you’re mistaken. He’s a relative of mine and himself is a Holocaust survivor.”
Naturally, many in Israeli intelligence wondered if the famous soldier for Germany had genuinely — and so easily — been recruited. Did he really care so much about his image that he demanded to be removed from a list of war criminals? Skorzeny indicated that being on the list meant he was a target for assassination. By cooperating with the Mossad, he was buying life insurance.
The new agent seemed to prove his full reliability. As requested by the Israelis, he flew to Egypt and compiled a detailed list of German scientists and their addresses.
Skorzeny also provided the names of many front companies in Europe that were procuring and shipping components for Egypt’s military projects. These included Heinz Krug’s company, Intra, in Munich.
Raanan continued to be the project manager of the whole operation aimed against the German scientists. But he assigned the task of staying in contact with Skorzeny to two of his most effective operatives: Rafi Eitan and Avraham Ahituv.
Eitan was one of the most amazing characters in Israeli intelligence. He earned the nickname “Mr. Kidnap” for his role in abducting Eichmann and other men wanted by Israeli security agencies. Eitan also helped Israel acquire materials for its secret nuclear program. He would go on to earn infamy in the 1980s by running Jonathan Pollard as an American Jewish spy in the United States government.
Surprisingly flamboyant after a life in the shadows, in 2006, at age 79, Eitan became a Member of Parliament as head of a political party representing senior citizens.
“Yes, I met and ran Skorzeny,” Eitan confirmed to us recently. Like other Mossad veterans, he refused to go on the record with more details.
Ahituv, who was born in Germany in 1930, was similarly involved in a wide array of Israeli clandestine operations all around the globe. From 1974 to 1980 he was head of the domestic security service, Shin Bet, which also guarded many secrets and often conducted joint projects with the Mossad.
The Mossad agents did try to persuade Wiesenthal to remove Skorzeny from his list of war criminals, but the Nazi hunter refused. The Mossad, with typical chutzpah, instead forged a letter — supposedly to Skorzeny from Wiesenthal— declaring that his name had been cleared.
Skorzeny continued to surprise the Israelis with his level of cooperation. During a trip to Egypt, he even mailed exploding packages; one Israeli-made bomb killed five Egyptians in the military rocket site Factory 333, where German scientists worked.
The campaign of intimidation was largely successful, with most of the Germans leaving Egypt. Israel stopped the violence and threats, however, when one team was arrested in Switzerland while putting verbal pressure on a scientist’s family. A Mossad man and an Austrian scientist who was working for Israel were put on trial. Luckily, the Swiss judge sympathized with Israel’s fear of Egypt’s rocket program. The two men were convicted of making threats, but they were immediately set free.
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, however, concluded that all of this being out in public was disastrous to Israel’s image — and specifically could upset a deal he had arranged with West Germany to sell weapons to Israel.
Harel submitted a letter of resignation, and to his shock, Ben-Gurion accepted it. The new Mossad director, commander of military intelligence Gen. Meir Amit, moved the agency away from chasing or intimidating Nazis.
Amit did activate Skorzeny at least once more, however. The spymaster wanted to explore the possibility of secret peace negotiations, so he asked Israel’s on-the-payroll Nazi to arrange a meeting with a senior Egyptian official. Nothing ever came of it.
Skorzeny never explained his precise reasons for helping Israel. His autobiography does not contain the word “Israel,” or even “Jew.” It is true that he sought and got the life insurance. The Mossad did not assassinate him.
He also had a very strong streak of adventurism, and the notion of doing secret work with fascinating spies — even if they were Jewish — must have been a magnet for the man whose innovative escapades had earned him the Iron Cross medal from Hitler. Skorzeny was the kind of man who would feel most youthful and alive through killing and fear. …
But Otto Skorzeny took this secret to his grave. He died of cancer, at age 67, in Madrid in July 1975.
He had two funerals, one in a chapel in Spain’s capital and the other to bury his cremated remains in the Skorzeny family plot in Vienna. Both services were attended by dozens of German military veterans and wives, who did not hesitate to give the one-armed Nazi salute and sing some of Hitler’s favorite songs. Fourteen of Skorzeny’s medals, many featuring a boldly black swastika, were prominently paraded in the funeral processions.
There was one man at the service in Madrid who was known to no one in the crowd, but out of habit he still made sure to hide his face as much as he could. That was Joe Raanan, who by then had become a successful businessman in Israel.
The Mossad did not send Raanan to Skorzeny’s funeral; he decided to attend on his own, and at his own expense. This was a personal tribute from one Austrian-born warrior to another, and from an old spy handler to the best, but most loathsome, agent he ever ran.
This music video says about itself:
RIVER OF BIRDS IN THE SKY for Champions of the Flyway
6 February 2016
This is the official song and video for the 2016 Champions of the Flyway event to be held in Eilat, Israel, on March 29, 2016. Please help us stop the illegal killing of birds along the Mediterranean flyway.
Using a ‘race’ to celebrate migration and prevent illegal killing of birds
By Jim Lawrence, Tue, 15/03/2016 – 13:30
Springtime’s natural momentum is beginning to build and primal urges are causing migratory birds – including iconic returning summer visitors like swallows and storks – to hurry back to their breeding grounds. Those particularly fascinated by Earth’s natural avian rhythms – birders – are preparing to gather where the miracle of migration can be witnessed at its best.
Nowhere provides a better opportunity for this than the Red Sea coastal resort of Eilat in southern Israel, where bird migration is always spectacular. As well as being a natural bottleneck that birds pass through in huge numbers, Israel is also one of the few places migrating birds fly free, unthreatened by the terrible persecution they face in so many other countries further north. During peak times, clouds of migrating buzzards, storks and eagles, borne high on thermals (warm air currents), soar over Eilat’s spectacular Moon Mountains. Lower in the valley, freshly arrived wading birds form fascinating feeding frenzies at every available patch of fresh water.
It is fitting then, that the BirdLife Partner in Israel, Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, (SPNI) proudly stages a now annual 24-hour bird race event called Champions of the Flyway in Eilat each spring (to be held this year on 29 March) to highlight the plight of migratory birds on behalf of the BirdLife International Partnership. With some 40% of all migratory species in decline globally, the media attention it receives is extremely valuable.
Now in its third year, 15 international teams will take part in this well-choreographed promotional event that focuses international eyes on the issue of illegal bird killing. Leading birders and celebrities from around the world take part and reach out to their many followers through social media.
This raises global awareness and conservation funds to address the urgent threat to migratory birds in the Mediterranean-Black Sea Flyway. With half a billion birds on the move, this is the second largest migratory route in the world.
Champions of the Flyway is unique. Unlike most other bird races, it celebrates the joy of sharing great birding experiences. The high profile participants, the ‘champions’, actively promote their involvement during the build up, creating a buzz around their preparations. By tweeting their sightings and progress in real time during the race, all who follow them can experience the thrill of the event live. Everyone can join in by following here on Twitter and Facebook.
Each year, Champions of the Flyway shines a light on the issues faced in a different country and helps a leading national conservation organisation tackle the illegal trapping and killing of birds there. This year, the BirdLife Partner in Greece – the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) – will be the recipient of funds raised by the event.
Two priorities will be tackled by HOS; the illegal shooting of birds, like the now globally threatened Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, in the Greek Islands, and the illegal (and often indiscriminate) trapping of small songbirds such as the European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis for the cage bird trade on the Greek mainland.
While the team who sees the most birds in 24 hours receives the title ‘Champions of the Flyway’, an equally meretricious award, ‘Guardians of the Flyway’, is bestowed on the team raising the most money for conservation.
Please consider becoming a ‘Champion’ yourself and help stop the illegal killing of birds in Greece by making a donation to help one of the three BirdLife teams that are taking part reach their target. The BirdLife Swarovski Optik Racers, The SEO/BirdLife Iberaves Team or The Pterodromoi BirdLife Greece Racers.
Almost 1 million birds still being illegally killed on British territory in Cyprus: here.
Finnish team wins third ‘Champions of the Flyway’ race: here.