Connect with us


Next meeting of Rady JCC book club: The story of the Egyptian spy who turned out to be Israel’s greatest agent

Ashraf Marwan2The Angel – The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel
I hadn’t heard of Ashraf Marwan before I read this book. If you haven’t heard of him either, there’s good reason for that: He was undoubtedly the most important spy Israel has ever had, but for years neither Israeli authorities – who were aware of his identity, nor Egyptian authorities, who were also undoubtedly aware of what Marwan had done, wanted to reveal anything about him.

In fact, as it turns out, it was as a result of the embarrassment felt by a former head of Israeli Military intelligence, someone by the name of Eli Zeira, who rejected the intelligence that was being given by Marwan for quite some time that Egypt was going to attack Israel in 1973, that Marwan’s name first emerged – in the Israeli press.

“The Angel” – as the Mossad, for whom he worked as an agent for years, referred to Marwan, was an incredibly complex individual who, to his dying day in 2007, never explained why he decided to become Israel’s most important spy in the history of the state.
In this fascinating book, written by a former senior official in Israeli Military Intelligence, we learn the intricate path that Marwan followed in keeping the Mossad abreast, not only of Egyptian military preparations, but what the thinking was at the very highest levels of Egyptian policy makers, including Anwar Sadat.
Who was Ashraf Marwan? He was born to a well-respected upper-middle class family in Egypt in 1944. His grandfather was chief of the Sharia courts, while his father rose to become a general in the Republican Guard. Marwan’s ascension up the hierarchy of Egyptian officialdom was solidified when he married one of the daughters of the then-Egyptian president, Gamel Abdul Nasser. Although Nasser was not all that keen on the marriage, Marwan was clever enough to be able to insinuate himself into what amounted to Egyptian royalty.
In this book, the author tells the story of Marwan’s life in exquisite detail. Bar Joseph had access to some of the key figures in Israel’s intelligence community and, although the Mossad’s most closely guarded secret documents that would fortify Bar Joseph’s assumptions remain sealed, he builds a convincing case that the intelligence supplied by Marwan saved Israel from complete military disaster during the early days of the Yom Kippur War.

How Marwan came to be the Mossad’s most important asset of all time is a fascinating story. Unlike other agents who spied for Israel, Marwan was not lured into working for the Mossad. Instead, he was the one who approached the Mossad and offered his services! There were so many strokes of luck surrounding the story how the Mossad came to rely upon Marwan, and how close the agency came to missing out on him completely if one phone call hadn’t been properly channeled by a very conscientious employee of the Israeli embassy in London, that it is quite possible Marwan would have never bothered to do what he did.
But, Bar Joseph wonders throughout, why did Marwan choose to place his life on the line and become an absolutely vital conduit of information to the Israelis? He was already a wealthy man when he first made contact with the Mossad in 1969, having used his connections in Egypt to start building what would become an immensely rich business empire. While the Mossad did end up paying Marwan handsomely, apparently he never asked anyone for money. The heads of the Mossad – and the top leadership of the Israeli government, especially Golda Meir, realized that in Marwan they had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to keep abreast of every move that Egyptian military and political planners were making, so they made sure that Marwan was well compensated for his efforts.
Bar Joseph offers other plausible reasons for Marwan’s volunteering to spy for Israel, including the excitement that what he was engaged in gave him. At the same time – and this is quite complicated to understand, Marwan still regarded himself as an Egyptian patriot. In order to fathom that notion, one must realize that Sadat’s plan to launch a surprise attack against Israel was never predicated on the idea that Egypt would win back the entire Sinai peninsula, which had fallen to Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967. Instead Sadat wanted to order a limited operation, which would drive the Israelis off the eastern side of the Suez Canal and lead to a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.

The fact that Israel was not prepared for the Egyptian strike across the canal on October 6, 1973, as it is fully explained in The Angel, was not as a result of a failure to obtain proper intelligence, it was precisely because the most vital intelligence was ignored that Israel suffered such heavy losses during the first days of the war.
In laying the blame for that failure to properly interpret the intelligence that was being fed by Marwan, and which was also corroborated by other intelligence available to the top leaders of both the IDF and the Israeli government, Bar Joseph points specifically to the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Eli Zeira, also to a slightly lesser extent, Moshe Dayan, who was Israel’s defense minister at the time.
As Bar Joseph explains it, the dominating concept or “kontzeptzia” within Israeli military strategists prior to the Yom Kippur War was that Egypt would not attack Israel unless it had the necessary armaments from the Soviet Union, especially long-range Scud missiles. In fact, some months before October 6, 1973, Sadat had ordered all Soviet military advisers (and their families) out of Egypt. For Eli Zeira and other like-minded Israeli military planners, this was proof that Egypt was not at all ready to launch an attack on Israel. At the same time though, Marwan was warning his handlers in the Mossad that, rather than Sadat abandoning any notion of attacking Israel he was, in fact, preparing just the opposite.
So, one might ask, considering how much Israel was caught by surprise on October 6, 1973, were Marwan’s warnings all for naught? Not at all for, as Bar Joseph explains in great detail, it was Marwan’s warning on October 5 that “war will start tomorrow” that did give Israel enough time to soften the blow dealt by the coordinated Egyptian-Syrian attack the next day that prevented Israel from suffering a complete military collapse. In fact, it was Marwan’s repeated warnings that Syria would attempt to take back the Golan Heights when an attack would be launched that allowed the IDF to send enough units to that area in time to prevent a catastrophic defeat.
What the inability of Israeli military intelligence and individuals such as Dayan to properly heed the warnings that were being given to them led to, however, was the refusal to call up the reserves in time. Bar Joseph provides a strong case in defense of Marwan, who was later accused by Zeira of giving the warning too late, that Marwan was himself only made aware on October 5 of the actual date the attack would be launched.

While the first two-thirds of the book are taken up with the story how Marwan came to be Israel’s most important spy, the final third of the book deals with what happened to Marwan following the Yom Kippur War. Rather than the Egyptians becoming aware that they had a spy at the very highest level of government, Marwan continued to pursue his ambitious career, abetted by his connections throughout Egypt’s political and military hierarchy. Following Sadat’s assassination in 1979, however, Marwan fell out of favour with Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, although he had at one time been a good friend of Mubarak.
 Marwan eventually moved to London where he became fabulously wealthy. In 2002, however, when his role as an agent was first publicly divulged by Eli Zeira, and later by other Israeli historians, one might have thought that his life would be in critical danger. Instead of his being regarded as a traitor in Egypt, however, Egyptian authorities promulgated the notion that, rather than Marwan’s having been a spy for Israel, he had, in fact, been a double agent, working to sow misinformation within the Israeli intelligence community. Bar Joseph explains the Egyptians wanting to perpetuate the myth that Marwan was actually a hero in Egypt for the simple reason that it is so terribly embarrassing to admit that Israel had a spy at the very highest levels of the Egyptian government.
In 2007 though, Marwan fell to his death off the balcony of his London apartment. Did he jump, as the Egyptian press suggested or more likely, as Bar Joseph posits, was he pushed by Egyptian agents? We will likely never know the truth and, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Israel was saved from what might have been a total military disaster by an Egyptian spy. The repercussions of Israeli Military Intelligence’s failure to heed Marwan’s warning are still being felt in Israel, as coordination of intelligence gathering and interpretation has been totally revamped to the point where the kinds of rivalries that used to exist between Israeli military intelligence and the Mossad have now been erased – or so we are supposed to believe.
The Angel – The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel is both a spellbinding book as an espionage thriller, also a thorough examination of the failure of Israeli military intelligence leading up to the Yom Kippur War. Even if you aren’t interested in reading the book, you are invited to come down to the next meeting of the People of the Book Club at the Rady JCC on November 29 for a discussion of this book – and a lesson in history.

The Angel – The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel

By Uri Bar Joseph
384 pages
Published August 2016

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN (May 21, 2024) A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” ( has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website,, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” ( That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

(Updated May 28)

We contacted Ms. Harel to ask whether she’s aware whether there has been an increase in the number of Israelis deciding to emigrate from Israel since October 7. (We want to make clear that we’re not advocating for Israelis to emigrate; we’re simply wanting to learn more about emigration figures – and whether there has been a change in the number of Israelis wanting to leave the country.)
Ms. Harel referred us to a website titled “Globes”:
The website is in Hebrew, but we were able to translate it into English. There is a graph on the website showing both numbers of immigrants to Israel and emigrants.
The graph shows a fairly steady rate of emigration from 2015-2022, hovering in the 40,000 range, then in 2023 there’s a sudden increase in the number of emigrants to 60,000.
According to the website, the increase in emigrants is due more to a change in the methodology that Israel has been using to count immigrants and emigrants than it is to any sudden upsurge in emigration. (Apparently individuals who had formerly been living in Israel but who may have returned to Israel just once a year were being counted as having immigrated back to Israel. Now that they are no longer being counted as immigrants and instead are being treated as emigrants, the numbers have shifted radically.)
Yet, the website adds this warning: “The figures do not take into account the effects of the war, since it is still not possible to identify those who chose to emigrate following it. It is also difficult to estimate what Yalad Yom will produce – on the one hand, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israelis around the world reminds everyone where the Jewish home is. On the other hand, the bitter truth we discovered in October is that it was precisely in Israel, the safe fortress of the Jewish people, that a massacre took place reminding us of the horrors of the Holocaust. And if that’s not enough, the explosive social atmosphere and the difference in the state budget deficit, which will inevitably lead to a heavy burden of taxes and a reduction in public services, may convince Zionist Israelis that they don’t belong here.”
Thus, as much as many of us would be disappointed to learn that there is now an upsurge in Israelis wanting to move out of the country, once reliable figures begin to be produced for 2024, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that is the case – which helps to explain the tremendous popularity of Ms. Harel’s website.

Continue Reading


Message from a Palestinian in Gaza to protesters: “You’re hurting the Palestinian cause”

Protesters at McGill University

A very brave Palestinian who was willing to put his name to paper and write an article for Newsweek Magazine has exposed the utter hypocrisy of all those students – and others, who have been setting up encampments across the U.S. – and now Canada, too.

You can read the article at

Continue Reading


The Most Expensive Israeli Soccer Transfers

Eran Zahavi

Even if Israel isn’t known as a world soccer power, it has produced plenty of talented players who have made a living in top European leagues. On more than one occasion, an Israeli international has commanded a rather large transfer fee. But who are the most expensive players in Israel’s history? The answer could be a little surprising. We took a look back to find the most expensive Israeli soccer transfers of all time.

Tai Baribo

In 2023, Baribo made the move to MLS, signing with the Philadelphia Union. The reported fee was around $1.5 million, which is one of the highest transfer fees the Union has ever paid for a player.

Omer Atzili

Throughout his career, Atzili has played for a variety of clubs, including stops in Spain and Greece. In 2023, he joined Al Ain in the UAE for a transfer fee of $2.1 million.

Maor Buzaglo

Now retired, Buzaglo was briefly the holder of the richest transfer deal for an Israeli player. After a couple of successful seasons on loan, Maccabi Tel Aviv paid $2.7 million to rival Maccabi Haifa for Buzaglo in 2008.

Dia Saba

Saba made history in 2020 when he joined Al-Nasr, making him the first Israeli player to play for a club in the UAE. At the time, it was a big deal for relations between the two countries. Al-Nasr also paid an impressive $2.9 million transfer fee for the midfielder.

Tal Ben Haim

On multiple occasions, Ben Haim has been sold for more than $1 million. First, there was his move from Hapoel Tel Aviv to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2023 for close to $1.2 million. A few years later, Sparta Prague came calling for him, spending $3.1 million as a transfer fee for the winger.

Itay Shechter

During the prime of his career, Shechter was the type of player who warranted a seven-figure transfer fee. German club Kaiserslautern paid a little over $2.6 million in 2011 to bring Shechter to the Bundesliga from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Daniel Peretz

When Peretz was sold to Bayern Munich, it wasn’t the most expensive deal involving an Israeli player, although it was arguably the most important. He became the first Israeli Jew to play at Bayern, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world. The transfer fee for Peretz paid by Bayern Munich to Maccabi Tel Aviv was around $5.4 million.

Oscar Gloukh

Gloukh is one of the best young Israeli players right now. He already has three international goals in a dozen appearances to his name. Somehow, Gloukh is already one of the most expensive players in Israel’s history. After coming up with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he moved to Austrian giant Red Bull Salzburg in 2023 for a transfer fee of close to $7.5 million. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him top that number one day.

Liel Abada

Abada has been a part of two huge transfer deals in his young career. In 2021, Scottish club Celtic paid $4.8 million to acquire him from Maccabi Petah Tikva. However, that number was topped in 2024 when Charlotte FC of MLS paid a fee of $8 million for Abada.

With Charlotte FC, Abada competes in North America’s top league, facing teams from both Mexico and Canada. Throughout North America, sports betting has taken off in recent years. That includes betting in Canada, where there is a large collection of trusted sports betting platforms.

Eran Zahavi

To date, Zahavi holds the record for the most expensive transfer fee paid for an Israeli player. It’s fitting for Israel’s former captain and all-time leading scorer. In 2016, Chinese club Guangzhou City paid $12.5 million to get Zahavi from Maccabi Tel Aviv. That record was nearly broken later that year when another Chinese club offered $20 million for Zahavi, who turned it down and stayed with Guangzhou City.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News