Born in Argentina and raised in Jerusalem, Shulamit Kishik-Cohen—who died last week at the age of one-hundred—was married to a wealthy Jewish businessman in Beirut when she was only seventeen. Her career in intelligence began before Israel became a state and lasted until her arrest in 1961. After the Six-Day War, she was released as part of a prisoner exchange and lived out the rest of her life in Israel. Ofer Aderet writes (free registration may be required):
Due to her prominence in the local Jewish community, Kishik-Cohen managed to develop good relations with the Lebanese authorities and to gain the confidence of key people in the country’s leadership. Without ever planning to take such a path, she found she had access to valuable intelligence information. Then, just prior to the outbreak of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, she began to hear talk of the “extinction of the Jews of the land of Israel,” and knew immediately that it related to military preparations for war against the Jews of Mandatory Palestine. . . .
She contacted officials in the Jewish community in British Mandatory Palestine and offered her services as a spy. In [her memoir], she describes the roundabout way in which she sent her first message to members of the Haganah (the underground, pre-independence army of Palestine’s Jews). She wrote a concealed message, using a method she had learned in the Girl Scouts, in a seemingly innocent-looking letter that on the surface appeared to be asking about how a sick relative was faring. Merchants who worked with her husband in the market in Beirut saw to it that it was passed along, and ultimately it reached its destination in Mandatory Palestine.
The message was understood loud and clear, and a short while later she received her first assignment in her new “profession.” From then until 1961, she operated a spy network that supplied Israel with intelligence information and engaged in smuggling Jews from Arab countries over the Lebanese border into Israel.
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