Soon to be released in English, Amazons of the Mossad, reviews new intelligence information including the identities of some women agents.
Although the book sticks to an old narrative about women spies, there are a few quotes from the undercover agents themselves including how women have an advantage as they are less suspected than men (cultural norms are similar to WW2 era).
Former undercover agents, Sarah Aaronsohn and Cheryl Hanin are both mentioned in the book. Cheryl Hanin, an American-born woman who spent a semester studying in Israel. After graduation and being passionate about Israel, she joined the army and within six years was recruited by the Mossad. Since the 1950s, the Mossad has had the reputation for aggressive strategic tactics, ranking as one of the most skilled and efficient intelligence agencies in the world — its training regimen is gruelling. The intelligence, focus, firearms/combat training along with creative problem solving are not for the faint of heart. Once Cheryl Hanin finished training, her cover was usually as the wife or girlfriend of other agents working in Israeli embassies – a good cover for a woman with strategic brilliance as it plays into the projected cultural norms.
In 1986 she became involved in one of the most notorious and important Mossad missions — considered “to be bigger than Watergate”. She was assigned to honey trap a former nuclear technician from the Negev Nuclear Research Center. Mordechai Vanunu had worked with sensitive material for 8 years and signed an official secrets act. He was laid off and moved to Australia but before he left he took photos of the Israel’s extensive nuclear arsenal. Due to his philosophical leanings and lack of understanding perhaps for what he had signed, he became vocal about the Israeli nuclear build up of weapons. This eventually led to The Sunday Times newspaper inviting him to London to assess his information. While there he was cautioned not to roam about the city as there was concern he’d be targeted especially by the Mossad. In that very week, he was sight-seeing and attracted to a young woman named “Cindy”.
The Sunday Times journalist told him she may be a spy but he threw off the idea saying he had approached her, a tourist from America and they were enjoying some sites together. The newspaper vetting of Vanunu’s story was taking too long so he thought he’d take Cindy up on her offer to visit with her and her sister in Rome. She booked him a ticket on her flight and soon they were headed to an apartment in Rome only to be greeted by other Mossad agents. He was trapped, shipped to Israel, and convicted to 18 years in prison. His incarceration is up next month. Meanwhile Cheryl Hanin and her husband are in the real estate business in Orlando but keep a house in Israel. Is she still a Mossad agent? Probably.
Sidebar: In Oct. 1986, the Sunday Times did print the story revealing that to the world’s surprise, Israel had become a major nuclear power.