Spying for Mossad, Israeli author never forsook fiction

Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:08pm EDT
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By Dan Williams

RAMAT RAZIEL, Israel (Reuters) - For retired Israeli spy Mishka Ben-David, writing fiction was a realization of artistic aspirations he had long suppressed.

Ben-David had a doctorate in Hebrew literature and four books published when the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad recruited him in 1987. He agreed to avoid the authorial limelight as he embarked on a career of surveillance and subterfuge, including a role in Israel's botched assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan in 1997.

He says he stepped down after 12 years to spend more time with his family and resume writing. But Mossad stayed with Ben-David and features in half of the books that followed.

The first, "Duet in Beirut", has been translated into English (Halban Publishers), with another two - "Forbidden Love in St. Petersburg" and "Last Stop Algiers" - to follow.

Ben-David, 61, spoke to Reuters at his home near Jerusalem about the benefits and drawbacks of taking creative inspiration from real-life espionage.

Q: To what extent do your spy novels reflect real events?

A: I am careful not to write anything that could disclose actual Mossad missions or tradecraft, though the portrayal of the kind of people who work there, their dilemmas and deliberations, the interaction between the command and field units, are accurate.

Some of my fictional devices - say, the undercover tactical unit sent into Lebanon in "Duet in Beirut", or the way the protagonist in "Forbidden Love in St. Petersburg" is required to carry out an assassination, ad hoc, without having gone through the rigorous training that would demand - simply do not happen in Mossad. There's a good deal of fabrication.   Continued...

Retired Israeli spy Mishka Ben-David poses for a picture outside his home in Ramat Raziel near Jerusalem October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun