While most Ḥaredim, including fiercely anti-Zionist ḥasidic groups, have since 1948 come to terms with Israel’s existence, Neturei Karta (Aramaic for “guardians of the city”) has remained steadfast, sometimes even perverse, in its opposition. One of the group’s two founders, Amram Blau, died in 1974, and was survived by his wife, the former Ruth Ben David, née Lucette Ferraille (1920–2000). Amy Spiro discusses her remarkable life, which began in a French Catholic family, with her biographer Motti Inbari:
In her 80 years on earth, Blau lived more lifetimes than would seem possible. Her stranger-than-fiction story winds its way from a stint in the French Resistance during World War II to serving as a spy in Morocco, going to prison for tax evasion, converting to Judaism twice, playing a key role in the kidnapping of a boy in Israel, a wildly controversial marriage to the founder of Neturei Karta, and at least one meeting with the Iranian ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
As a young divorced single mother in the 1940s, Blau infiltrated the ranks of the Gestapo on orders of the French Resistance by forming a romantic relationship with a senior Nazi officer. “She penetrated into the Nazi headquarters pretending to be a Nazi, a Gestapo officer, and reported to the resistance all the time about what was happening in the headquarters,” Inbari recounted. Her clandestine work did not stop there, as she later traveled to Morocco on behalf of the French secret service to engage in a number of espionage activities.
Inbari documents a range of mysterious travels to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iran and her ultimately unsuccessful attempts to negotiate the release of Jewish hostages—banking, perhaps, on her anti-Zionist bona fides—including the Iranian Jew Albert Danielpour and the IDF soldiers Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman.
“In Israel, she is viewed as a villain, and I came from this mindset, but the more I started to learn about her, the more I had sympathies toward her,” Inbari said, adding that he believed she was also “not mentally stable.”