|Dvinsk Home Page|
|Dvinsk Stories Menu|
Isser Harel /Halperin
Isser Harel /Halperin
Isser Harel was born in Vitebsk, Russia (now Belarus) to a large, wealthy family. The exact date of his birth was not passed on to him because the book of Gemara in which the date was recorded was lost in the migrations of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and World War I. The family had a vinegar factory in Vitebsk. It was a gift of his maternal grandfather, who had a concession to make vinegar in large parts of Tsarist Russia. Young Isser was five years old when the revolution broke out and Vitebsk passed several times between the Whites and the Reds. On one occasion he saw Leon Trotsky give a speech in the town.
Isser and his family fell on hard times when the Soviet regime confiscated their property. In 1922 the family emigrated from the Soviet Union to Dvinsk in independent Latvia. On the way, Soviet soldiers stole their suitcases, which contained the rest of their possessions. In Dvinsk, Isser began his formal studies, completed primary school, and began secondary school. As he grew, a Jewish national consciousness grew within him and he joined a Zionist youth organization.
When he was 16, Isser began preparations to immigrate to Israel. During this preparatory year he worked in agriculture with the aspiration to join a kibbutz.
With the outbreak of the 1929 Hebron massacre, his friends decided to move up their immigration date in order to reinforce the Jewish settlement in Palestine. Documents were prepared for the 17-year-old Isser stating that he was 18 and eligible for a British visa. At the beginning of 1930 he immigrated to Israel. He crossed Europe from north to south to board a ship in Genoa, carrying a pistol that he concealed in a loaf of bread.
He had one child, a daughter, from his first marriage. She currently works for the Shabak (General Security Service) in Israel. She did not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces but instead in the National Work Program which is an alternative for women who do not or cannot serve the mandatory 18 months in the I.D.F.
 Mossad Chief
On September 22, 1952, Harel became head of the Mossad. Harel became the first man to be given the Hebrew title of HaMemuneh (the responsible one), a reference to his unique position as the head of both Israeli civilian intelligence services, Mossad and Shabak.
Harel was the head investigator in the 15 year manhunt for Adolf Eichmann. The hunt ended in May 1960, when the Mossad covertly kidnapped Eichmann from Argentina to Israel. Eichmann was the man responsible for technical coordination of the Final Solution in WWII, which resulted in the systematic murder of 6,000,000 Jewish people. Harel documented his 15 year investigation in "The House on Garibaldi Street".
He was replaced as head of Mossad after it became known that many of his agents had misappropriated funds. Since then, Mossad agents working on foreign soil have to "earn" their money through business activities, which also enhances their cover.
] Political career
After leaving Mossad, Harel turned to politics. He joined David Ben Gurion's newly created National List prior to the 1969 elections, and was elected to the Knesset as the party won four seats. However, after Ben Gurion resigned from the party it began to disintegrate, with two of the MKs defecting to Likud and the other to the Alignment. As a result, Harel lost his seat in the 1973 elections.
* The Great Deceit: a Political Novel (1971) (Hebrew)
Issar Harel, Israeli spymaster behind Eichmann capture, dies at 91
Harel, one of the founders of Israel's intelligence community, led the
Between 1952 and 1963, he simultaneously headed both agencies, and was
Among the most significant achievements during this period was the 1961
From The Times