Egyptian-Jewish heroes commemorated in Israel

 A memorial has been unveiled at the Egyptian-Jewish Heritage Center in Tel Aviv to commemorate four Egyptian Jews who sacrificed their lives on behalf of the state of Israel. Levana Zamir, President of the International Association of Jews from Egypt – who masterminded the unveiling ceremony – reports:

Seated centre, surviving members of Operation Susannah Robert Dassa and Meir Zafran. Behind Zafran stands Levana Zamir, President of the International Association of Jews from Egypt, who masterminded the unveiling ceremony.

Engineer Shmuel Azar and Dr. Moshe Marzouk were hanged in Cairo for their involvement in the 1954 Operation Susannah (the Lavon Affair).  Eli Cohen was hanged in Damascus.  Jacques Levi, nicknamed  in Arabic el-Agalati (the ‘bicycle repair man’ ), was killed in  the Jewish quarter of Cairo.

A view of the Egyptian Jewish Heritage Center in Tel Aviv

During World War II, Jacques Levy el-Agalati served in the British army Sabotage Unit and was an expert in bomb disposal. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, when he was already a civilian, he managed to dismantle a number of bombs in the Jewish quarter of Cairo placed by the Muslim Brotherhood – and saved the lives of hundreds of Jews living in the area. But in September 1948, the bomb he was trying to dismantle exploded in his hands and he was killed on the spot, killing 70 Jews;  tens of people were wounded. The incident was reported in one of the main newspapers in Egypt, attributing blame to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Eli Cohen, born in Alexandria, served in the Mossad’s mission to Syria in the first half of the 1960s and provided the IDF with invaluable information which greatly assisted the IDF during the Six Day War. Eli Cohen was captured and hanged in Damascus on 18 May 1965.

Engineer Shmuel Azar, commander of the Alexandrian squad operating in Egypt on behalf of the Israeli Unit 131 as part of Operation Suzannah, took responsibility when he was captured for the squad he commanded in the past even though in practice he no longer occupied that post. He was hanged in Cairo on 31 January 1955.

The commemorative illuminated plaques

Dr. Moshe Marzouk, commander of the Cairo squad operating on behalf of the same Unit 131 as part of Operation Suzannah , also took full responsibility for  the squad, even though he had actually resigned from his post as squad leader in Cairo. He was hanged on 31 January 1955.

An illuminated plaque was dedicated to each of these operatives.  An additional  plaque was dedicated to the other members of the two squads who were captured as part of Operation Suzannah and spent many years in Egyptian prisons: Robert Dassa, Meir Zafran, Victor Levy, Meir Meyuhas, Marcelle Ninio-Boger and Philip Nathanson. The families of all those heroes also participated in  this historical event.

There was a flurry of excitement at the unveiling ceremony  when the only two surviving operatives of Operation Suzannah arrived: Robert Dassa (89) and Meir Zafran (93).

After the unveiling, Professor Nahem Ilan, head of the Cairo Heroes Memorial Foundation near the Intelligence Memorial Museum and Ella Shoshana, director of the Foundation, delivered fascinating speeches. Yossef Tam, head of the Union des Juifs d’Egypte, and Dr Yaron Friedman, a representative of Jacques Levi el-Agalati’ s family, also spoke. The ceremony was brought to a close by Shavit Ben-Arieh, Director of the Culture and Heritage Department at the Ministry of Culture, who honoured the historic event with his presence.

More about Eli Cohen

Spies of No Country by Matti Friedman


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