The French Catholic Resistance Operative Who Married the Leader of an Ultra-Orthodox Sect and Helped Rescue Jews in Muslim Lands

Born in France in 1920, Madeleine Lucette Ferraille was by all accounts both attractive and highly intelligent. During the last years of World War II, she saved a Jew from the Nazis, joined the Resistance, and infiltrated the SS. Thereafter her life took one of its many unexpected twists and turns, as recounted by Motti Inbari in his recent biography. Allan Arkush writes in his review:

After the war, Lucette fell into a deep depression and found that neither Christianity nor philosophy could help lift her out of it. “It was Judaism,” she later wrote, “which met my sense of universalism, my concept of unity, my need for a convincing theology, and, above all, an increasingly strong inner calling.” In 1950 a visiting Israeli academic named Ephraim Harpaz invited her to come to Israel and marry him. She loved Israel, but she didn’t marry Harpaz. Instead, she returned to France, where she converted to Judaism under the auspices of a Reform rabbi and adopted the name of Ruth Ben David.

By the end of the decade, Ben David had undergone a second, Orthodox, conversion and fallen in with the extreme anti-Zionist ḥaredi sect Neturei Karta. She went on to become a heroic figure in the movement, leading to her controversial marriage to its founder Rabbi Amram Blau (1894–1974). But this was hardly the end of her unusual career:

In January 1979, after the shah had fled Iran but before Ayatollah Khomeini had returned to the country, she wrangled a meeting with Khomeini in Paris and got him to promise that he would not punish Iranian Jews for [what were in her view] Israel’s mistakes. Leaders of Neturei Karta are infamous for courting Israel’s enemies, but Inbari presents evidence from a former Israeli spy named Ari Ben-Menashe that something more may have been going on. Khomeini, it seems, may have met with Blau because she was covertly representing the Israeli government. The message that Khomeini apparently delivered to Prime Minister Begin was a slightly reassuring one: “Don’t worry Israel. First, my agenda is to deal with my Arab enemies. Then, I will deal with Israel.”

Inbari also reports Ben-Menashe’s claim that Ruth met with Khomeini in Tehran in September 1979, at Begin’s behest, to propose an arms deal with Israel in exchange for the release of the American hostages. . . . The next year she traveled to Iran three times in an effort to save the life of Albert Danielpour, a wealthy Iranian Jew who was accused of being an Israeli and CIA asset. . . . Later she would head to Beirut to try to save the lives of Lebanese Jews held by Iranian-backed militias.

In her eagerness to help Jews in Muslim lands, Ruth went further than one might have thought an anti-Zionist could go.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Zionism, Conversion, Haredim, Holocaust rescue, Israeli history

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security