Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Happy Shavuot starting tonight. See you on Tuesday bli neder
Last chance to sign up for our trip to Herodion, located right here in the Jerusalem area on Wednesday because our Joshua Alter trip that was scheduled for Tuesday is canceled.
Shalom chaverim, We are sorry to inform you that due to the current security situation, the IDF has decided to forbid our tour scheduled for Tuesday to Joshua's alter in the Shomron.
This is actually the second time this has happened to us.
It is a shame that Jews can not travel freely in our own beloved land due to Arab threats of violence. It is even a greater shame that Israel will not guarantee Jewish safety in our land and thus reward the enemy and punish the victims.
In looking for a silver lining to the situation, Shalom Pollock and I will lead a tour to the just-completed archaeological excavations in Herodion, in place of that tour.
The exquisite tomb, theater, and chambers of King Herod have been excavated along with other newly uncovered gems. There is a wonderful presentation and model as well. In order to visit these discoveries, one must walk many steps and sometimes in the heat. In addition to this highlight, we will visit other interesting things in the area. Wednesday, May 19 We will depart from the Inbal Hotel at (9:00 and return around 5:00 Bring a lunch Cost: 220 shekels
Please let me know asap if you want to attend as it right after Shavuot on Wendesday
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
Shavuot, the second of our biblical festivals starts tonight and is tomorrow in Israel and also Tuesday outside of Israel
Shavuot (Hebrew: שָׁבוּעוֹת, lit. "Weeks''), is known in English as the Feast of Weeks. While it is s referred to as Pentecost in Chrisitanity ( due to its timing after Passover, "pentecost" meaning "fifty" in Greek, since Shavuot occurs fifty days after the first day of Passover, it is not the same as the Christian Pentecost.
It is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (it may fall between May 15 and June 14 on the Gregorian calendar). ] In the Bible, Shavuot marks the wheat harvest in the Land of Israel (Exodus 34:22) and according to the Jewish Sages, it also commemorates the anniversary of the giving of the Torah by G-d to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai in 1312 BCE. Rabbinic writings state that in addition the Oral Torah was given to Moses at Mount Sinai, which, according to the tradition of Orthodox Judaism, occurred in 1312 BCE. The Orthodox rabbinic tradition holds that the Written Torah was recorded during the following forty years.
The word Shavuot means "weeks" and it marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer. Its date is directly linked to that of Passover; the Torah mandates the seven-week Counting of the Omer, beginning on the second day of Passover, to be immediately followed by Shavuot. This counting of days and weeks is understood to express anticipation and desire for the giving of the Torah. On Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot, they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving G-d.
One of the biblically ordained Three Pilgrimage Festivals, Shavuot is traditionally celebrated in the Land of Israel for one day and for two days in the Diaspora.
Agricultural (wheat harvest)
Shavuot is not explicitly named as the day on which the Torah was revealed by G-d to the Israelite nation at Mount Sinai in the Bible, although this is commonly considered to be its main significance.
What is textually connected in the Bible to the Feast of Shavuot is the season of the grain harvest, specifically of the wheat, in the Land of Israel. In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness (Jer. 5:24, Deut. 16:9–11, Isa. 9:2). It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. Shavuot was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest, just as the eighth day of Sukkot (Tabernacles) was the concluding festival of the fruit harvest. During the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem, an offering of two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest was made on Shavuot.
Names in the Torah
In the Bible, Shavuot is called the "Festival of Weeks" (Hebrew: חג השבועות, Chag HaShavuot, Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10); "Festival of Reaping" (חג הקציר, Chag HaKatzir, Exodus 23:16), and "Day of the First Fruits" (יום הבכורים, Yom HaBikkurim, Numbers 28:26).
Shavuot, the plural of a word meaning "week" or "seven," alludes to the fact that this festival happens exactly seven weeks (i.e. "a week of weeks") after Passover.
In the Talmud
The Talmud refers to Shavuot as ʻAṣeret (Hebrew: עצרת, "refraining" or "holding back", referring to the prohibition against work on this holiday and to the conclusion of the holiday and season of Passover. Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Hellenistic Jews gave it the name "Pentecost" (Koinē Greek: Πεντηκοστή, "fiftieth day").
Ceremony of First Fruits, Bikkurim
Shavuot was also the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim (first fruits) to the Temple in Jerusalem (Mishnah Bikkurim 1:3). The Bikkurim were brought from the Seven Species for which the Land of Israel is praised: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates (Deuteronomy 8:8).
In the largely agrarian society of ancient Israel, Jewish farmers would tie a reed around the first ripening fruits from each of these species in their fields. At the time of harvest, the fruits identified by the reed would be cut and placed in baskets woven of gold and silver. The baskets would then be loaded on oxen whose horns were gilded and laced with garlands of flowers, and who were led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. As the farmer and his entourage passed through cities and towns, they would be accompanied by music and parades.
Temple in Jerusalem
At the Temple in Jerusalem, each farmer would present his Bikkurim to a Kohen in a ceremony that followed the text of Deut. 26:1–10.
This text begins by stating: "An Aramean tried to destroy my father," referring to Laban's efforts to weaken Jacob and rob him of his progeny (Rashi on Deut. 26:5)—or by an alternate translation, the text states "My father was a wandering Aramean," referring to the fact that Jacob was a penniless wanderer in the land of Aram for 20 years (Abraham ibn Ezra on Deut. 26:5).
The text proceeds to retell the history of the Jewish people as they went into exile in Ancient Egypt and were enslaved and oppressed; following which God redeemed them and brought them to the land of Israel.
The ceremony of Bikkurim conveys gratitude to G-d both for the first fruits of the field and for His guidance throughout Jewish history (Scherman, p. 1068).
Modern religious observances
A synagogue sanctuary adorned in greenery in honor of Shavuot
Nowadays in the post-Temple era, Shavuot is the only biblically ordained holiday that has no specific laws attached to it other than usual festival requirements of abstaining from creative work. The rabbinic observances for the holiday include reciting additional prayers, making kiddush, partaking of meals and being in a state of joy. There are however many customs which are observed on Shavuot. A mnemonic for the customs largely observed in Ashkenazi communities spells the Hebrew word aḥarit (אחרית, "last"):
אקדמות – Aqdamut, the reading of a piyyut (liturgical poem) during Shavuot morning synagogue services
חלב – ḥalav (milk), the consumption of dairy products like milk and cheese
רות – Rut, the reading of the Book of Ruth at morning services (outside Israel: on the second day)
ירק – Yereq (greening), the decoration of homes and synagogues with greenery
תורה – Torah, engaging in all-night Torah study.
The yahrzeit of King David is traditionally observed on Shavuot. Hasidic Jews also observe the yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov.
Main article: Akdamut
The Aqdamut (Aramaic: אקדמות) is a liturgical poem extolling the greatness of G-d, the Torah, and Israel that is read publicly in the synagogue right before the morning reading of the Torah on the first day of Shavuot. It was composed by Rabbi Meir of Worms, whose son was murdered during the First Crusade in 1096. Rabbi Meir was forced to defend the Torah and his Jewish faith in a debate with local priests and successfully conveyed his certainty of G-d's power, His love for the Jewish people, and the excellence of Torah. Afterwards he wrote the Aqdamut, a 90-line poem in Aramaic that stresses these themes. The poem is written in a double acrostic pattern according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet. In addition, each line ends with the syllable ta (תא), the last and first letters of the Hebrew alphabet, alluding to the endlessness of Torah. The traditional melody that accompanies this poem also conveys a sense of grandeur and triumph.
Sephardi Jews do not read Akdamut, but before the evening service they sing a poem called Azharot, which sets out the 613 commandments. The positive commandments are recited on the first day and the negative commandments on the second day.
The liturgical poem Yatziv Pitgam (Aramaic: יציב פתגם) is recited by some synagogues in the Diaspora on the second day of Shavuot. The author and his father's name appear in an acrostic at the beginning of the poem's 15 lines.
Cheese blintzes, typically eaten by Ashkenazi Jews on Shavuot
Dairy foods such as cheesecake, cheese blintzes, and cheese kreplach among Ashkenazi Jews; cheese sambusak, kelsonnes (cheese ravioli), and atayef (a cheese-filled pancake) among Syrian Jews; kahee (a dough that is buttered and sugared) among Iraqi Jews; and a seven-layer cake called siete cielos (seven heavens) among Tunisian and Moroccan Jews are traditionally consumed on the Shavuot holiday. Yemenite Jews do not eat dairy foods on Shavuot.
In keeping with the observance of other Jewish holidays, there is both a night meal and a day meal on Shavuot. Meat is usually served at night and dairy is served either for the day meal or for a morning kiddush.
Among the explanations given in rabbinic literature for the consumption of dairy foods on this holiday are:
Before they received the Torah, the Israelites were not obligated to follow its laws, which include shechita (ritual slaughter of animals) and kashrut. Since all their meat pots and dishes now had to be made kosher before use, they opted to eat dairy foods.
The Torah is compared to milk by King Solomon, who wrote: "Like honey and milk, it lies under your tongue" (Song of Songs 4:11).
The gematria of the Hebrew word ḥalav (חלב) is 40, corresponding to the 40 days and 40 nights that Moses spent on Mount Sinai before bringing down the Torah.
According to the Zohar, each day of the year correlates to one of the Torah's 365 negative commandments. Shavuot corresponds to the commandment "Bring the first fruits of your land to the house of God your Lord; do not cook a kid in its mother's milk" (Exodus 34:26). Since the first day to bring Bikkurim (the first fruits) is Shavuot, the second half of the verse refers to the custom to eat two separate meals – one milk, one meat – on Shavuot.
The Psalms call Mount Sinai Har Gavnunim (הר גבננים, mountain of majestic peaks, Psalm 68:16–17/15–16 ), which is etymologically similar to gevinah (גבינה, cheese).
Book of Ruth
Ruth in Boaz's Field by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, oil on canvas, 1828; National Gallery, London
There are five books in Tanakh that are known as Megillot (Hebrew: מגילות, "scrolls") and are publicly read in the synagogues of some Jewish communities on different Jewish holidays.The Book of Ruth (מגילת רות, Megillat Ruth) is read on Shavuot because: (1) King David, Ruth's descendant, was born and died on Shavuot (Jerusalem Talmud Hagigah 2:3); (2) Shavuot is harvest time [Exodus 23:16], and the events of Book of Ruth occur at harvest time; (3) The gematria (numerical value) of Ruth is 606, the number of commandments given at Sinai in addition to the Seven Laws of Noah already given, for a total of 613; (4) Because Shavuot is traditionally cited as the day of the giving of the Torah, the entry of the entire Jewish people into the covenant of the Torah is a major theme of the day. Ruth's conversion to Judaism, and consequent entry into that covenant, is described in the book. This theme accordingly resonates with other themes of the day; (5) Another central theme of the book is ḥesed (loving-kindness), a major theme of the Torah.
According to the Midrash, Mount Sinai suddenly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of the giving of the Torah on its summit. Greenery also figures in the story of the baby Moses being found among the bulrushes in a watertight cradle (Ex. 2:3) when he was three months old (Moses was born on 7 Adar and placed in the Nile River on 6 Sivan, the same day he later brought the Jewish nation to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah).
For these reasons, many Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with plants, flowers and leafy branches in honor of Shavuot. Some synagogues decorate the bimah with a canopy of flowers and plants so that it resembles a chuppah, as Shavuot is mystically referred to as the day the matchmaker (Moses) brought the bride (the nation of Israel) to the chuppah (Mount Sinai) to marry the bridegroom (G-d); the ketubah (marriage contract) was the Torah. Some Eastern Sephardi communities read out a ketubah between G-d and Israel, composed by Rabbi Israel ben Moses Najara as part of the service. This custom was also adopted by some Hasidic communities, particularly from Hungary.
The Vilna Gaon cancelled the tradition of decorating with trees because it too closely resembles the Christian decorations for their holidays.[
All-night Torah study
The practice of staying up all Shavuot night to study Torah – known as Tiqun Leyl Shavuot (Hebrew: תקון ליל שבועות) ("Rectification for Shavuot Night") – is linked to a Midrash which relates that the night before the Torah was given, the Israelites retired early to be well-rested for the momentous day ahead. They overslept and Moses had to wake them up because God was already waiting on the mountaintop. To rectify this perceived flaw in the national character, many religious Jews stay up all night to learn Torah.
The custom of all-night Torah study goes back to 1533 when Rabbi Joseph Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch, then living in Ottoman Salonika, invited Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz and other Kabbalistic colleagues to hold Shavuot-night study vigils for which they prepared for three days in advance, just as the Israelites had prepared for three days before the giving of the Torah. During one of those study sessions, an angel appeared and taught them Jewish law.] It has been suggested that the introduction of coffee throughout the Ottoman empire may have attributed to the "feasibility and popularity" of the practice of all-night Torah study.
Any subject may be studied on Shavuot night, although Talmud, Mishnah, and Torah typically top the list. People may learn alone or with a chavruta (study partner), or attend late-night shiurim (lectures) and study groups. In keeping with the custom of engaging in all-night Torah study, leading 16th century kabbalist Isaac Luria arranged a recital consisting of excerpts from the beginning and end of each of the 24 books of Tanakh (including the reading in full of several key sections such as the account of the days of creation, the Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Shema) and the 63 tractates of Mishnah, followed by the reading of Sefer Yetzirah, the 613 commandments as enumerated by Maimonides, and excerpts from the Zohar, with opening and concluding prayers. The whole reading is divided into thirteen parts, after each of which a Kaddish d-Rabbanan is recited when the Tiqun is studied with a minyan. Today, this service is held in many communities, with the notable exception of Spanish and Portuguese Jews. The service is printed in a book called Tiqun Leyl Shavuot. There exist similar books for the vigils before the seventh day of Pesach and Hosha'ana Rabbah.
In Jerusalem, at the conclusion of the night time study session, tens of thousands of people walk to the Western Wall to pray with sunrise. A week after Israel captured the Old City during the Six-Day War, over 200,000 Jews streamed to the site on Shavuot, having been made accessible to Jews for the first time since 1948.
Since the Torah does not specify the actual day on which Shavuot falls, differing interpretations of this date have arisen both in traditional and non-traditional Jewish circles. These discussions center around two ways of looking at Shavuot: the day it actually occurs (i.e., the day the Torah was given on Mount Sinai), and the day it occurs in relation to the Counting of the Omer (being the 50th day from the first day of the Counting).
Giving of the Torah
While most of the Talmudic Sages concur that the Torah was given on the sixth of Sivan in the Hebrew calendar; R. Jose holds that it was given on the seventh of that month. According to the classical timeline, the Israelites arrived at the wilderness of Sinai on the new moon (Ex. 19:1) and the Ten Commandments were given on the following Shabbat (i.e., Saturday). The question of whether the new moon fell on Sunday or Monday is undecided (Talmud, tractate Shabbat 86b). In practice, Shavuot is observed on the sixth day of Sivan in Israel and a second day is added in the Jewish diaspora (in keeping with a separate rabbinical ruling that applies to all biblical holidays, called Yom tov sheni shel galuyot, Second-Day Yom Tov in the Diaspora).
Counting of the Omer
Main article: Counting of the Omer
The Torah states that the Omer offering (i.e., the first day of counting the Omer) is the first day of the barley harvest (Deut. 16:9). It should begin "on the morrow after the Shabbat", and continue to be counted for seven Sabbaths. (Lev. 23:11).
The Talmudic Sages determined that "Shabbat" here means a day of rest and refers to the first day of Passover. Thus, the counting of the Omer begins on the second day of Passover and continues for the next 49 days, or seven complete weeks, ending on the day before Shavuot. According to this calculation, Shavuot will fall on the day of the week after that of the first day of Passover (e.g., if Passover starts on a Thursday, Shavuot will begin on a Friday).
The Book of Jubilees and the Essenes
This literal interpretation of 'Shabbat' as the weekly Shabbat was shared by the second-century BCE author of the Book of Jubilees who was motivated by the priestly sabbatical solar calendar of the third and second centuries BCE, which was designed to have festivals and Sabbaths fall on the same day of the week every year. On this calendar (best known from the Book of Luminaries in the Book of Enoch), Shavuot fell on the 15th of Sivan, a Sunday. The date was reckoned fifty days from the first Shabbat after Passover (i.e. from the 25th of Nisan). Thus, Jub. 1:1 claims that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah "on the sixteenth day of the third month in the first year of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt".
It's nothing new.
It's a predictable pattern.
When Israel is attacked the world has other things to worry about.
When Israel strikes back, the world drops everything. It is their moral duty to make sure that Israel does not use disproportionate force or that the body count shouldn't be too lopsided against Israel's attackers. That would obviously be a clear sign of an unfair fight and thus one that Israel has no moral right engaging in.
Jewish victims are a much more tolerable sight.
If this sounds like the Sodom and Gomorrah logic/morality it is because it is exactly. "There is nothing new under the sun", said the wisest of men.
I understand the behavior of the world and their approach to good and evil, right and wrong - to Jews. What does frustrate and sadden me is how this pattern is copied within Israel by the Left.
I have been following the Israel political scene closely for over four decades and keeping a diary of the events. It is all recorded in real time.
One of the patterns I have noticed is that when an Arab kills a Jew, the Left, media, politicians, academia and other "great thinkers" relate to it with equanimity. If the Jew was standing over the "green line" then he was simply negligent and irresponsible.
Things "happen" over there.
If the victim actually was one of the over half million Jews living in the "territories", he is by definition a criminal and, well, who is to judge which crime is worse?
In the rare case that a Jew assaults an Arab, the Left chorus howls a heart-rending dirge and demands that the most severe action taken. They make pilgrimages to the homes of the Arab family and apologize on the behalf of the enlightened Jewish people. This is what a cosmopolitan and moral person does. This is the real Jew.
They never make shiva calls to Jews killed by Arabs. That would be just so parochial, wouldn't it? For many days, brutal Arab mobs attacked Jews in Israel and the Left had no comment; certainly, no outrage,
Finally, Jews are reacting. Now comes the outrage and deep worry of the Left and media.
Big time. Can we honestly expect better from the rest of the world? This will not be seen on Facebook. I am banned. Shalom Pollack is a tour guide, filmmaker and writer in Jerusalem He is writing a book. "Despite ourselves, I was there"
What's My Line? - Sean Connery; Henry Fonda; Ralph Meeker [panel] (Oct 3, 1965)
The Tale Of Israeli Spy Wolfgang Lotz – The Unsung Hero Of The Six-Day War
Eli Cohen is well known for his heroic espionage work in Syria in the early 1960s, when he developed close relationships with the Syrian political and military hierarchy and provided essential intelligence to the Israeli Army, which played a key role in Israel's capture of the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Barely remembered, however, are the equally important contributions of Wolfgang Lotz (1921-1993), the "Jewish James Bond" who was singularly responsible for Israel's stunning victory against Egypt during that war.
Lotz was born in Mannheim, Germany to a Jewish mother, an actress, and a non-Jewish German father, a theater director. His parents were removed from the Jewish fold to the point that they didn't even circumcise him – which, ironically, later played an important role in his ability to pass as a non-Jew during his dangerous undercover mission.
His parents divorced in 1931 and, when Hitler was elected German Chancellor two years later, his mother took him and fled to Eretz Yisrael, where they settled in Tel Aviv. Adopting the Hebrew name Zev Gur-Arie (Zev being the Hebrew word for "wolf," as in Wolfgang), Lotz began studies at the agricultural school at Ben Shemen before joining the Haganah at age 15.
When World War II broke out in 1939, the British took advantage of Lotz's fluency in German, Arabic, English, and Hebrew and assigned him to an intelligence unit in Egypt, where his primary duty was interrogating German prisoners of war. After the war, he returned to Israel, where he married Rivka, an Israeli Jew; had a son, Oded Gur-Arie; and joined the Israeli underground, smuggling weapons for the Haganah.
At the outbreak of Israel's War of Independence (1948), he joined the newly-formed IDF as a captain and participated in the battle for Latrun. Later, during the 1956 Sinai War against Egypt, he rose to the rank of major and commanded an infantry brigade.
In the late 1950s into the early 1960s, the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, grew increasingly concerned about the danger to Israel from German scientists in Egypt working to develop the country's rocket program. As such, it actively sought an agent who could gather intelligence on Nasser's armaments plans and Soviet arms being supplied to Egypt; scope out targets for Israel's next attack on Egypt; and, most importantly, infiltrate the group of former Nazi rocket and weapons scientists working for Egypt.
Lotz was the perfect candidate to serve as a Mossad undercover operative: he had stark Aryan features, including classic blond hair and blue eyes; he was fluent in German and was the very model of a former Nazi officer; he had demonstrated courage in battle; he was an extrovert who, like his mother, was a skilled actor; and last, but by no means least, he was uncircumcised.
After intensive training in espionage and rigorous study of Egyptian history, politics and culture, Lotz was sent to Germany in November 1959 to establish a fake identity and to move around so as to make him difficult to trace. Drawing on countless stories he had heard in the course of his work interrogating many hundreds of Nazi POWs, he was able to pass as a rabid anti-Semite and to hold himself out as a former member of the Nazi party and Wehrmacht officer who had served in North Africa.
Working with his Mossad handlers, he developed a clever cover story pursuant to which he was a wealthy businessman who had spent more than a decade in Australia as a horse breeder and had come to Egypt to establish an equestrian club.
Sent to Cairo in December 1960, he went to various equestrian clubs, ultimately finding one patronized by Egyptian Army officers. There, he met and befriended the Egyptian chief of police, and word soon spread about the debonair Nazi officer and horse breeder. He quickly became accepted in high Egyptian society, became an "A-lister" among the glitterati and in demand for all of Cairo's most prestigious parties; and, most importantly, gained access to the Egyptian government and military elite.
At a June 1961 meeting with his Mossad operators in Paris, he was given considerable funds and a transponder for sending secret messages. To further create the image of great financial means, he frequently held his own lavish and alcohol-soaked soirees and conspicuously purchased high-priced steeds.
His lavish Israeli expense account enabled him to give extravagant gifts to his Egyptian friends, including paying for the cosmetic nose surgery for the daughter of a good friend – the chief of police – for which he earned high public regard.
During the trip to Paris, Lotz visited Rivka and Oded in Paris, where they resided during his mission to Egypt. On his train out of Paris in June 1961, he met Waltraud Martha Neumann, an East German refugee living in America and traveling to visit her parents in Germany. He became enamored with her and, without ever discussing the matter with his Mossad handlers, he married her – notwithstanding the fact that he was already married to Rivka.
When the Mossad learned about the second marriage, it was horrified by the serious breach of protocol and the increased likelihood of his being compromised as an agent but, deciding that the mission was far too important to abandon, Mossad Chief Isser Harel returned him and his new "wife" to Egypt.
Upon his arrival, he was greeted by the Egyptian police chief himself, who drove him to Cairo, where a grand party awaited him. He formally launched his equestrian club and, when Lotz informed Waltraud that he was an Israeli agent, she began to work with him.
Lotz caught a big break when he befriended Brigadier General Fouad Osman, a high Egyptian military intelligence officer who, as chief of security for Egyptian rocket bases and military factories, was in charge of protecting the very sites about which Israel was seeking intelligence.
He also established a close relationship with Hussein El-Shafei, one of Nasser's closest advisors, who often shared important state decisions with him. Through his personal relationships with these and other Egyptian officials, he was able to learn about Egyptian missile launch sites and gather important intelligence on the Egyptian military and its industrial production.
It was quite remarkable. Lotz was not only invited to tour top-secret bases near the Suez Canal, but he was also granted access to airports where the Egyptians stationed their MIG fighter aircraft, where he took close range photographs of the pilots posing proudly near their planes.
The Egyptians bragged to him about how they were misleading the Israeli air force about the strength of their air battalions by mixing imitation planes in with real ones on their airfields and, of course, he reported all this information back to Israel.
Moreover, he also managed to infiltrate the innermost circles of the Nazi SS and to compile a comprehensive list of the leading former Nazi scientists working for the Egyptians, which included precise details of their assigned tasks, their Cairo addresses, and the locations of their families back in Germany and Austria.
Lotz wrote menacing anonymous letters to the scientists naming their wives and children and advising them that, if they valued the lives of their families, it would be very much in their interests to cease working for the Egyptians. Furthermore – unknown to the Mossad – he unilaterally decided to mail clandestine letter bombs to a number of the scientists, but the explosives killed a number of Egyptian civilians and he failed to induce the scientists to discontinue their work.
There are two differing accounts of the circumstances that led to Lotz's arrest at his Cairo home on February 22, 1965.
According to one version, in late 1964, the Soviets, upon whom Egypt had been largely dependent for a decade, pressured Nasser to invite East German President Walter Ulbricht to Cairo, notwithstanding vociferous protest from the West German government. To prove that he would not be pushed around by West Germany, Nasser ordered the arrest of 30 West Germans living in Cairo, including Lotz and Waltraud.
Unknown to Lotz, the Egyptians had advised the West German ambassador that the arrests were merely for show and that the arrestees would soon be released, but Lotz assumed that his covert activities had been discovered. As the Mossad had feared, his prime directive became protecting his wife, so he decided to cooperate fully with the Egyptians – who actually had not suspected anything. As such, during his "show" interrogation, he confessed all to his shocked interrogator.
Many sources, however, argue that this was a bogus narrative fabricated by the Mossad and that the true story begins with Syria's adoption of new radio direction-finding equipment, which it had used to catch Eli Cohen red-handed. Taking a lesson from the Syrians and assisted by Soviet experts in radio detection, the Egyptians employed similar equipment and picked up Lotz's transmitter.
This version of his discovery is confirmed by Lotz himself, who writes in his autobiography, The Champagne Spy, that he was captured after a wireless set was discovered hidden inside his bathroom scale.
But in any event, the Egyptians were too late. Unknown to the Egyptians, Lotz had already provided crucial strategic military information to Israel, including specifically which Egyptian airfields contained fake planes to lure Israeli warplanes into futile attacks.
Today, it is broadly recognized that the seminal event in Israel's miraculous victory in the 1967 Six-Day War was its destruction of the Egyptian air force on the ground before its planes could take off, which never could have happened but for the information provided by Lotz.
After his capture, newspapers worldwide published his photograph, and the remarkable story of the Nazi officer who served as an Israeli spy generated enormous attention. The interest in Israel, however, was a bit different, as people simply could not imagine a Nazi officer working as an agent for the Mossad, let alone serving as a major in the IDF.
Lotz undoubtedly would have been executed had the Egyptians immediately realized that he was a Jew, and a Zionist to boot. However, while confessing to being an Israeli spy, he was unfaltering in sticking to his cover story that he was a German who had served in the Afrika Corps, where he learned the equestrian arts. According to one account, he insisted that he spied for Israel only to obtain financing necessary to establish his equestrian club and, according to another, he claimed that the Israelis threatened to reveal his Nazi past unless he cooperated with them. Both may be correct.
In any event, Lotz did everything possible to convince the Egyptians of his truthfulness, even making a televised broadcast to the German people urging anyone approached by the sordid and revolting Israelis – who had taken every advantage of him, as Jews are wont do – to reject any solicitation by the Zionist state.
In a highly unusual step, the Mossad chief at the time, Meir Amit, contacted all newspaper editors across Israel and told them the truth – i.e., that Lotz was merely posing as a former Nazi officer – and begged them not to publicize his photograph, lest he be identified by someone who might expose him, whether inadvertently or intentionally, thereby ending any chance he might have to escape an Egyptian death sentence.
Elevating the national interest over their personal and parochial concerns, the editors complied with Amit's request and no photographs of Lotz were published in Israel for many weeks.
Charged with espionage, Lotz and Waltraud were put on trial, but the Mossad was able to get them a good German lawyer and to arrange for an observer from the German Embassy, whose presence ensured some measure of fairness by the Egyptian judicial system.
Things were going reasonably well until a shocking development at a critical stage in the trial: The court received an anonymous letter stating that Lotz was actually Ze'ev Gur-Arie, not a Christian but a Jew; not a German but an Israeli; and not the owner of an equestrian farm, but a major in the Israeli armed forces.
While the identity of the person who sent the letter remains unknown, various theories range from a German lawyer who represented the scientists threatened by Israel's letter campaign to a disgruntled Israeli Jew who bore animus toward Lotz and sought to see him hung by the Egyptians.
Though it accepted the letter as factual, the court nonetheless announced that it had determined that Lotz's testimony was true. It did so almost certainly in response to an order issued from the highest levels of the Egyptian government; though the actual reasons remain unknown, the most likely explanation is that the Egyptians were embarrassed that an Israeli agent was able to so successfully penetrate their highest security protocols.
On August 21, 1965, Lotz was convicted as a spy but, rather than executing him as would have been expected, he received a life sentence at hard labor and his wife was sentenced to three years in prison. Both were released in 1968 pursuant to a prisoner exchange following the Six-Day War, but Israel paid a heavy price: the release of 4,000 Egyptian prisoners of war, including nine generals.
After his release, Lotz returned to Israel, but he did not publicly disclose his presence there until November 24, 1971, when he attended the wedding of fellow Israeli spy Marcelle Ninio, who was released together with Lotz from their Egyptian imprisonment. Exhibited here is an original newspaper photo of the wedding, officiated by Rav Shlomo Goren (right). The bride was "given away" to Lt. Col Eli Boger by Prime Minister Golda Meir, and Lotz stands between her and the bride.
Victorine Marcelle Ninio (1929-2019) was the only woman recruited to act as a liaison for an Israeli spy cell, which planted bombs inside Egyptian, American, and British owned civilian targets. A device going off prematurely at a cinema caused great embarrassment to Israel and led to the infamous "Lavon Affair," and it was her marriage in 1971 that led to the Israeli public learning more about the long-secret details of the Affair.
Lotz remained in Israel until Waltraud's death in 1973, when he returned to Germany and lived the rest of his life in poverty. Used to living the high life in Germany and Egypt, he grew unhappy that he could not resume his grandiose and flamboyant lifestyle, complained that his Mossad pension was insufficient for his needs, and struggled to resume his true identity.
Lotz died from the heart disease he had developed during the years of his incarceration in prison, and he was buried in Israel with full military honors. Fourteen years later, after the Mossad declassified the case file, his son, Oded, broke his silence and served as host for The Champagne Spy, a film that told Lotz's story and won the 2007 Israeli Academy Award for Best Documentary.
See you on Tuesday, bli neder
Monday is Shavuot and it is a biblical holiday so no email.
Tuesday I am going on a trip with Shalom Pollock to see the Alter of Joshua near the biblical city of Shechem (Nautalis today)
Call me today if you want to go, there may be some spots left.