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7-007-70 (Part 5)

A true story (Part 5)

Every country has its traitors and spies. In the UK,  Philby, Burgess, and Blunt are some of the better-known names of the past century. Russia has had many. Israel too has had its share. I have no wish to name them, and give them coverage, even though they are known to all. One of them still capitalises financially, because of his treasonous actions. Traitors turn against their own countries mainly for financial gain. Some will claim ideological reasons. Others assume an adopted persona, and live under the guise they develop. They may be dormant for years, like a sleeper cell, while they work their way into sensitive and useful employment, or develop a social status. Wolfgang Lotz was a prime example of someone who had created a social status that became very productive for Israeli intelligence. If they are acting against their country of birth, it is treasonous. If for another country, they are spies.

My country - UK

So, what exactly is 'my' country? Is it the UK, where I was born and lived until I was 13, or is it Israel where I first visited in '61 and emigrated to in '63?

There is no 'either-or' answer.

  • I have two quite distinct personas. In England, I am British through and through. I don't look different, and I certainly don't act differently. The only indication that I may be an alien, not literally, but a 'foreigner' is my dialect free spoken English, lack of knowledge of everyday life, past and present, TV programs, or politics. I have lived and worked in the UK on different occasions over the years, but mainly lived in Israel for most of my life. I would say 65-35 time wise, leaning towards Israel. My accent changed because nobody could understand 'Liverpudlian'. But I certainly am Liverpudlian. For instance, if you say 'wack' or 'scouse or scouser' to any non-Brit, they won't have a clue what on earth you are talking about. I do. My mannerisms are strictly British—in England.

My country - Israel

So what makes me 65 percent Israeli? For starters, I've lived there most of my life, so there's one reason. But, I will let you into a secret. No, not one of those you are expecting. A personal one.

When I first visited with Rose, my mom, in '61, on board the MV Moledet, I saw the Carmel mountains in the distance. It was a beautiful sight that has been ingrained into my memory ever since that moment. I just have to close my eyes and I can see it. I was 11 years old. I had no knowledge about Israel beforehand, my mother hadn't been prepping me over the years, and so, I arrived with a clean sheet, except for the Liverpudlian in me. When I got off the ship, I felt as though I was home. The aunts all hugged Rose their baby sister, and there was lots of crying. Then they got round to me. I had four aunts who I had little knowledge of prior to that day. I had never felt this kind of family warmth before. It was then, and I have no other way of describing it, that a small flame lit within my heart. I know it sounds so old and corny, and for that I apologize, but it was true then, and it is true now. I have always felt that way, and that feeling was crystallized when I was on an engineering course in Augsburg 1971*, Germany. I still feel Israel is my home. That doesn't preclude 'British' as being part of my life. Only if you judge me does it become an issue. In your head, not mine. I am fortunate that I do have two separate personas, and I can hop in and out of each at will. I can quite happily dress in a t-shirt, shorts, and jeans for the rest of my life. But, if I need to wear a suit and tie, and black shoes with a briefcase, I'm comfortable with that too. Forget the bowler hat. That's taking it a step too far. 

We all have one life. I feel like a cat with nine lives. With the variety of activity in my life, and the two distinct personas, the number of times I've cheated death—I've crammed so much in that I feel I've had a lot more than just one life. With more to come...

* in Part 6

Dual Nationality isn't a crime

I don't have to choose

My father served with Monty. He fought for England. He was taken prisoner by the Germans. He was born in Liverpool. He was Catholic, but didn't go to church. 

My mother was born in what was called Palestine in 1925. She was one of five sisters and a brother. Her family originated in the USSR of old. Her father was an orthodox Jew. My mother was Jewish, but non-practising.

I grew up without religion in my life. Neither Catholic* nor Judaism. I was left to choose, and I did at a later stage. Religion is not a nationality so there was no conflict between my different nationalities. 

I have the luxury of being both British AND Israeli, and I don't have to choose one over the other. I don't have to swear allegiance to one without the other. Hypothetically, if Israel and the UK, were ever to go to war against each other, I would have a problem. Even now, if it's a soccer match, I have a problem.

I support Everton. For some in Liverpool, that would associate me with the enemy (in sport only). But if Liverpool is playing Barcelona, I support Liverpool. It's a simple choice.

I suppose if Britain were to go to war with Israel, I would go and defend Israel. If Israel were to go to war against Britain, I would defend Britain. This is starting to get complicated. I think it would be best to emigrate to the Philippines. Problem solved.

* I did go to a Christian school as mentioned earlier, and did participate in religious education, but with only half an ear. I understood from my mother that Jewish people believe in God, but not the 'Son of God' even though Jesus was Jewish. That is the summary of my religious education.

My 1st interview

I did not sleep well the night before the interview. I had to be in Tel Aviv at nine in the morning, and I was understandably nervous. I had a 05:35 train from Nahariya to Tel Aviv. In those days it would take almost two hours.

I hadn't prepared myself for this meeting, because quite frankly, I didn't expect it to take place. With hindsight, I could have made a better effort than just a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Besides, I had no idea what I was getting into, so how could I prepare?

The first interview was very informal. It was held in a small discreet coffee bar at the junction of Arlozerov St and Henrietta Sold in Tel Aviv. It was so discreet that everyone knew the people sitting there were not businessmen or friends out for the day. It had a reputation. I only learnt that much later on.

My DNA is such that if I don't arrive at least 30 minutes before time, I begin to feel I'm running late. I've been like that throughout my life, and if you are like me, my sympathies are with you. I do consider it OCD. Feel sorry for my daughter. She got that from me.

The meeting didn't go on for long. A few pleasantries and basic questions as to why I reached out, what I was currently doing, and about my life in general, future plans etc., without going into any great detail. It was to obtain 'first impressions'. This would be the first of many, so obviously it went well. Personally, I felt detached, as though it wasn't me there. Was this really true? Was I being interviewed by the Mossad? There would be many more to come.

Tel Aviv late 60s

interview

Following the meeting, I decided to spend the day in Tel Aviv. While not the capital of Israel, it remains the epicentre of life. Everything is happening in Tel Aviv. Some of the best beaches anywhere can be found here. The main hub for exclusive stores was to be found in Dizengoff St. There was the quiet side and the busy side. Not too long afterwards I was in a position that I could compare Hamra St., in Beirut to Dizengoff St. and although very similar, my opinion was that Hamra St. was far superior. Lots of cafes, restaurants, and very upmarket boutiques. I wasn't there for shopping.  

Back to Tel Aviv. The exclusive Cafe Roval in Miami is based on an Israeli institution of the same name—'Cafe Roval' on Dizengoff St. It was a huge cafe and restaurant, and was located on the best side of Dizengoff where there was plenty of sun. On any given day, you would be fortunate to find a vacant table. If you've ever frequented Cafe Metropole on Place De Brouckere in Brussels, then you'll get the picture. Many of my future meetings would be at the Wienerwald* restaurant hardly 30 meters away, and Brussels became like a home away from home. I really enjoyed many a relaxing moment opposite the La Monnaie De Munt. The coffee shops and cakes were second to none. Never got into moules marinière but if that's your passion, opposite the theatre is where you need to go.

Tel Aviv is renowned for a vibrant nightlife which is 24/7. Traffic jams begin at midnight, especially Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Late afternoon I caught the train back to Nahariya where I held my breath to await the outcome of the meeting earlier that day.

* Wienerwald was the largest restaurant chain of its kind in Europe pre-EU period. There were over 1500 different locations in Europe and the States. The speciality was roasted chicken. Not fried. Or, schnitzel. As I consider myself a schnitzel connoisseur, this was one of the best. It was not a fast food chain. Inside, there were separate booths so you could have a private chat with a glass of Beaujolais (not shaken and not stirred) with the meal and, it was excellent for all who wanted to have discreet conversations. There was usually a piano player in the background and the ambience of the place was superb. I've never had the same experience since—although Wienerwald was far from being a 2* Michelin restaurant, it certainly was a fantastic place in its own right. I wasn't meeting friends there. It was work. Sadly Wienerwald has seen better days, and from 1500+ restaurants, it has shrunk to just a handful in Germany. It's not easy competing with McDonald's, KFC, and all the other fast food places.

Multiple interviews

I'm the one on the left

The interviewing stage was spread out over a couple of months. Follow on interviews were conducted in an office, which was located not far from Ichilov hospital. It was a complex of one-story buildings known by many to be 'The Office'. As DJT would say 'everyone knew about it'. From the outside, there were no signs of what was inside. Maybe 'enter at your own peril' was a giveaway. No, there was no such sign. If anything, just a street number.

The interviews were really no more than to find out who I am, what my background was, my life in Liverpool (shhh, I didn't mention the bakeries and my gang life), my aspirations, and whether I had any reservations whatsoever, such as, would I be prepared to leave home for a long time? For some, that may be a difficult question. If you have a partner and possibly kids at home, then that could pose a problem. Not for me. I'd brought myself up from the age of 7 remember. Besides, I was reading Fleming's book at the time and knew there were pretty ladies in every episode... It was at that time that I was sworn to secrecy and had to sign the 'official secrets act'. 

In addition to the interviews, I was given a ton, I mean a full ton of paperwork to fill out. A forty-page document with every name I could remember. Everyone who knew me. People who would vouch for me. Forty pages. Friends, family references. My life. 

If you can handle that, you too can join the Mossad too.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Once the interviewing stage was completed, I entered into the next phase—three different psychologists. Not all together. Every two weeks a different one. If the first one would have been as pretty as this one, I would have called it quits there and then and settled down. But none of them was pretty. They were all old men, in their private clinics at home, and they looked serious. Well, they were serious, I guess. More questions, and lots of weird pictures that made no sense, yet I had to make sense of them. Couldn't just say rubbish. I was shown a big black splash of ink on paper and was supposed to say it reminds me of a rabbit, a bat, a bird, or my CO from camp. I guess if I were to say a big red double-decker London bus, the outcome of the interviews may have been different. I didn't. I was taking it seriously, although sometimes I had an issue of keeping my humour in check. They weren't really good, bad, and ugly. Just old. Why three different guys? I assume it was for cross-referencing. I'm guessing.

Lie detector test.

After the good, the bad and the ugly stage, I had to take a lie detector test. It was a bit more sophisticated than what you see here. There are sensors placed in several locations such as wrist, fingers, across the chest and other places I won't mention* right now. Just by the sight of the machine and probes, one breaks out in a sweat. Before they begin, you feel guilty. I was afraid they may ask if I've ever broken into a bakery or something like that. I knew I'd flop the test. However, the questions were banal in nature such as 'are you 20 years old?' 'Are you a Russian spy?' 'Is your name Joe Bloggs?' They were all yes and no answers, and they were asked twice. By the time he'd finished, I felt I'd run a marathon. I was soaking wet with sweat. They never found out about the bakery and the wooden balls.

* not seriously

The final meeting

After approximately three and a half months I was called for yet another meeting. This time in an upmarket restaurant, located in Hahashmonaim St close to Carlebach St. It was not the kind of restaurant I would go to. Nothing to do with style. It was a meat restaurant and the kind you need a bank loan for the chateaubriand. With a glass of red wine, it was a meal not to forget. Lucky I wasn't paying.

I was nervous because it could have gone either way. 'Sorry but thank you for your time' was one option. I didn't know what to expect. I'd gone through some rigorous testing of one sort or another, but I doubted myself. That was another part of my DNA. But the answer was 'you have been accepted to the final stage'. Pass that and my fantasy would come true. After reading several of Fleming's books, I had started to fantasize. Why not? This was really happening.  I think I returned to Nahariya on a magic carpet, because I was elated beyond belief and didn't notice the journey home at all.

The final stage

My apartment in Tel Aviv

End of Part 5

Before leaving the restaurant, I was given instructions. First of all, I needed to move to Tel Aviv. A short term rental apartment would be provided for me free of charge. This is the building in Yehoshua Ben Nun St, north Tel Aviv. 

This was the final hurdle I needed to overcome, and should I fail, then everything would slip away. Also, I was reminded that I had already signed a document of secrecy and that I was not allowed to discuss what was I doing. All talk was to cease, even to my closest of friends and my parents. Everyone knew more or less as they had signed documents pertaining to my character and their connections to me, but I was no longer able to share anything with anyone. This is when I withdrew within myself. I believe it has affected me throughout life. It also affects relationships which is born out by the many divorcees in the service. While I cannot blame my x's (2 of them) for broken down relationships, I have to take some responsibility for becoming somewhat introvert.

Part 6 will cover the final stage, and you really don't want to miss it. I'm sure it was written by Fleming himself.

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