This article was written based on materials provided by Yitzhak Cohen of Kfar Chabad. About five years ago he interviewed Brigadier General Amos Gilboa, a former head of the analytical department of the Israel Military Intelligence Directorate (AMAN), who composed the biography of his former commander, Major General Aharon Yariv, the head of Military Intelligence, who maintained close contacts with the Lubavitcher Rebbe SHLITA, King Moshiach ...
At precisely 10:00 PM on the 26th of Elul 5729 (September 8, 1969), the final order was given and the “Raviv” Operation began. A squad of assault ships transported six Israeli “T-55” trophy tanks painted according to the Egyptian scheme, three “BTR-50” vehicles with Egyptian army insignia and about a hundred fighters to the Egyptian side of the Gulf of Suez from the town Ras Sedr. Then, under the cover of darkness, the “Egyptian” forces marched from north to south along the Suez Canal, taking the enemy by surprise and dealing devastating blows from behind.
The Egyptian soldiers, stationed that night at one of the coastal defense posts along the western coast of the Gulf of Suez, were staring in shock, unable to believe themselves: the Egyptian troops in Soviet-made tanks and APCs were approaching from the Israeli side. And two men in spotted Egyptian army uniforms in the top turret of the first tank were steadily directing their unit straight at their positions!
And while the Egyptians were trying in vain to figure out when the approaching forces had managed to pass them on their way to Israel, where they were now returning from, and what covert operation deep inside Israeli territory they were taking part in, the unimaginable had already happened. The furious fire suddenly opened by the advancing “Egyptian” forces directly at them within seconds wiped out the outpost together with the soldiers inside.
The “Egyptian” unit continued southward, destroying coastal defense posts, command posts, early warning radars and enemy shipping camps along the way. On the way, General Hassan Kamel, who had tried to stop the “Egyptian forces”, was crushed together with his vehicle.
For nearly 10 hours an Israeli army landing party traveled 45 kilometers, attacking Egyptian units. About 150 Egyptian soldiers were killed that night. Finally, after destroying the radar stations and 12 outposts, the Israelis returned to their side of the canal in ships which were waiting for them.
Only as the sun began to rise the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (may the name of the evil one be erased from memory) finally realized the extent of the deception and the incredible success of the Israeli trick.
The whole Arab world suffers from the moral and prestige damage
About two years after the Six Day War, the Egyptian president ordered the deployment of army forces on the border with Israel, along the Suez Canal, initiating constant and violent clashes with the Israelis. Their purpose was to exhaust Israeli forces with confined operations — shelling, bombing, special forces actions that, God forbid, led to casualties, restrained IDF forces, forced to send reservists to the front line, and thus harmed the Israeli economy, which could not withstand such pressure for a long time. In Israel, this war was called the “War of Attrition.
The IDF in those days had to confront the Egyptian army, which had an enormous quantitative advantage and was deployed all along the canal: the 25 well-defended and manned Egyptian fortifications posed a continuous threat to the Israeli forces.
At first, largely due to the indecisiveness and weakness of the Israeli government, Israel responded to Egyptian attacks solely with small defensive actions. But that only encouraged the Egyptians, who were slowly returning to their brutal activities after the devastating defeat in the Six Day War, and intensified the fury of their operations. These attacks killed many IDF soldiers and civilians living near the Egyptian border.
Finally, Israel decided to regain the initiative and strike Egypt with a severe painful blow, both militarily and morally. After making the long, careful operational preparations and logistics necessary for a large-scale operation, the time had come to teach the Egyptians a lesson and “explain” that the game had changed from now on: the fighting would no longer take place on Israeli territory, but in Egypt’s rear. The defiant operation was called “Raviv”.
A trick was used to make the operation successful and reduce casualties among our men: the Israeli soldiers dressed in Egyptian army uniforms, and the tanks and armored personnel carriers that would be used in the operation were made from Soviet tanks the Egyptians had abandoned in the Sinai during the Six Day War and then returned to service, but in the IDF.
Some of the fighters also learned some phrases from the Arabic military vocabulary, thus perfecting their camouflage. With God’s help, this brave and unexpected plan was carried out with incredible success, without any casualties from our side.
Egypt, which had suffered heavy casualties in manpower and vehicles and was in deep shock, had received immense damage in terms of its prestige and morale.
Hoping to regain his lost honor, the Egyptian president tried to respond to Israel by sending dozens of bombers deep into Israeli territory. But it was an even bigger failure — seventeen Egyptian planes were shot down and the rest managed to escape...
Throughout the Arab world, the press once again laughed mercilessly at the Egyptian president and his army. In the same way, two years earlier, it made fun of the impressive military parades held in metropolitan Cairo, where Nasser had promised the Arab world an early and glorious victory over Israel in a war that ended, as we know, with the total defeat of Egypt.
A few days after Operation Eidoros, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser suffered a severe heart attack. He was able to recover and dismiss the chief of staff of his army and the commander of the navy, but he could not finally recover from the humiliation he had undergone. A year later he died as a result of another heart attack on Rosh Hashanah, 5731.
“There was not a single operation or secret action that didn’t pass through him!”
A few years ago, the book Mr. Intelligence, a biography of one of the most influential men in Israel’s Military Intelligence and one of its top leaders, Major General Aharon Yariv, was published in Israel by writer and journalist retired Brigadier General Amos Gilboa (formerly head of AMAN’s analytical department).
General Yariv was head of AMAN for eight years, from 1964 to 1972. Among the many other operations and actions prepared and carried out under his leadership, some of which remain classified to this day, was the incredibly successful Operation “Raviv”, which was described in the beginning of this article.
The published book mentioned and quoted letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe King Moshiach SHLITA addressed to Major General Yariv. To learn more about them, we approached the author of the biography, journalist and writer Brigadier General Gilboa, with a request to detail the dozens of original letters from the Rebbe that he saw. In response, Gilboa was happy to share his discoveries about the close connection between Major General Yariv and the Rebbe, their correspondence and conversations.
As he began writing and editing his commander’s biography, Amos Gilboa gained access to the most secret documents of the Office of Military Intelligence, as well as Major General Yariv’s personal notebook.
Major General Yariv was a very organized man who kept brief remarks in his notebook about meetings held and decisions made. Very soon Gilboa realized what a treasure he had discovered.After all, as the former head of AMAN’s analytical department and intimately involved in some of the most important successes of Israeli intelligence, he immediately realized the enormous value and interest of these records.
“The material revealed to me was fascinating,” Gilboa recalled the first days after receiving the Yariv documents, which had been classified for more than half a century. — “Even I, the man who used to head AMAN’s analytical department, had never seen much of this incredibly interesting archive before.”
This archive shed new light on certain military operations that seemed absolutely mysterious, strange and completely incomprehensible at the time they were conducted. Only now, with the discovery of the documents concerning these operations, it has become clear how many unconventional and original ideas were carried out, how much effort had been made to maintain the surprise factor and to prevent the enemy from realizing what was really intended...
Suddenly I found in my hands incredibly secret and rare records, documents marked with an obvious warning, highlighted in bright red — “top secret”, which could now be published...
“Remember”, Gilboa stresses, “it was Major General Yariv who laid the foundations of the Israeli intelligence agency, turning it into a powerful state structure. Nothing escaped his attention and there was no operation or covert operation that did not pass through him!”
“Are you sure the Rebbe has never been to Israel?”
“In the archive that fell into my hands,” continues Gilboa, “among many other letters and postcards, I found dozens of original letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that Major General Yariv had received over the course of several decades.”
“Among them were the short salutations that the Rebbe and the general exchanged with each other before the Rosh Hashanah. However, there were, and they comprise a large portion, letters concerning Israel’s security, in which the Rebbe expresses his views on a number of crucial issues. In some of them, the Rebbe praises IDF operations that were not known to the general public. In short, there seems to have been a very close connection between them...”
On the original Rebbe letters in Gilboa’s possession, the following warning is added at the bottom of each page: “This document may not be published, copied or photographed without permission from the IDF Archives and the Ministry of Defense. Use of this document is permitted only for authorized purposes.”
“I must tell you, — says Gilboa, — that from the Rebbe’s letters to Major General Yariv you can understand to what extent the Rebbe cared about the lifes of the people in Israel and how full and deep was his knowledge of what was going on at that time within the borders of the country. Only a truly loving and caring person could immerse himself in so much detail, to the point of understanding the geographical nuances of Judea and Samaria or the Suez Canal. The Rebbe offered solutions to specific problems and knew exactly what he was talking about, as if he had been there himself literally this morning...”
Gilboa notes the Rebbe’s profound understanding of all the details surrounding the borders of the Land of Israel. And here it is appropriate to recall one of Major General Yariv’s first meetings with the Rebbe, described in his own time by the Rebbe’s secretary, r. Yehuda-Leib Groner:
“One day Major General Aharon Yariv, the head of the AMAN, was here. When he came out of the Rebbe’s room, he asked me with interest, “Are you sure the Rebbe has never been to Israel?” And then added: "When I begin to explain to him the reasons why there is no need to hold the territories, the Rebbe gives me geographical reasons why retreat is dangerous — there are mountains in those places, hills in other places, and a valley in those spots. Yariv was absolutely stunned by the Rebbe’s knowledge of Israel’s geography.
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe is a real strategist,” Gilboa continues, “the one who knows how to listen, comment and clarify. It is no coincidence that Major General Yariv met with the Rebbe and then corresponded extensively with him about the most important issues, and from this correspondence he gained support and argumentation free from anxiety and the glorification of other nations.”
Yariv was completely confident that he could rely on the Rebbe.
Brigadier General Gilboa recounts how Major General Yariv’s acquaintance with the Rebbe began:
“Even before he was appointed as head of AMAN, Yariv served as military attaché in Washington, D.C. During that time he had a lot of contact with American Jews and their leaders, and among them, of course, with the Rebbe, whom Yariv considered one of the most influential figures in the Jewish world, including in matters of security.”
“I can’t imagine,” says Gilboa, “that it would be possible to build relationships with American Jews without getting in touch with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Jewish leader of the United States and the Diaspora!”
“When I started looking through the diaries,” he continues, “I noticed an interesting thing: every time the General came to New York, he met with two people. A famous lawyer and the Lubavitcher Rebbe!”
It is clear from the Rebbe’s letters to General Yariv that throughout those years — critical to Israel’s security — the Rebbe was in constant contact with someone who was rightly considered “Master of Intelligence” in Israel, who directed the majority of the most important actions for the security of Jews in Israel. “Yariv understood very well that the Rebbe could be relied upon, that even the most serious secrets could be shared and even the most confidential matters could be discussed with him. The letters lying in front of us prove this.”
In order to witness the extent to which Major General Yariv listened to the Rebbe, it is enough, for example, to note the fact that at the end of the month of Adar of 5730, Yariv postponed a previously planned trip in order to be able to meet with the Rebbe. The meetings took place on the 6th of Nisan, and about a week later, on the 11th of Nisan 5730. The Rebbe thanked him for it in a letter: “Needless to say, what a special importance for me is your visit, with appreciation for postponing your trip for the benefit of this encounter. I have heard from my father-in-law several times that when two Jews meet, it is expected that it will benefit other Jews as well, and they should try very hard to make that happen, which I hope very much.”
Guilboa points out that only someone who knew how busy Major General Yariv’s schedule was, arranged up to several months ahead, can appreciate how important this meeting with the Rebbe was for the general.
It is evident from the Rebbe’s letters, some of which had been known before but most of which have only now been revealed, Yariv didn`t only ask the Rebbe questions and share his insights with him. He was also able to listen to the Rebbe’s advice and even put it into practice, as we can learn from the following letter that he received from the Rebbe: “I was happy to know that some things were done in relation to the matter that You and I discussed concerning the influence on Egypt, during your visit here. Although it is rather disappointing that, as far as I know, this action was limited, and perhaps even of lesser importance.”
Gilboa notes that on a number of occasions the Rebbe adds in his letters to Yariv a few words inscribed directly by the Rebbe`s holy hand. Only now, those who have had the opportunity to read these documents can understand what the Rebbe meant. As an example, he mentions Operation “Raviv”: in the usual salutation written by the Rebbe to Major General Yariv on the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5730, he blesses him and adds with his holy hand a postscript: “...a blow to the rear of the Israel-haters’ neighbors, which seems to be an extremely significant matter...”.
“It became clear that the Rebbe was absolutely right.”
As the conversation progresses, Gilboa refers to one of the most surprising, perhaps even the most amazing, of the letters, from which one can get an idea of how involved the Rebbe was in what was going on in Israel.
The Rebbe’s letter, dated to the 3rd day of the month of Elul 5731, begins with a phrase about how “a pleasant surprise” it was to receive a new letter after a long pause since Yariv’s last letter. At the same time, the Rebbe emphasizes that there was no interruption on his part “...I inquired about your affairs and affairs of your friends in the Holy Land.”
The letter further refers to the intention existing at the time to give the Suez Canal to the Egyptians. The Rebbe emphasizes that surrendering the canal to Egypt is similar to surrendering it to the Soviets. The Rebbe adds that there is a relevant statement in Jewish law regarding such a situation: “the beginning was voluntary, but the end was forced,” for while a year or two ago the decision to withdraw from the canal or otherwise was entirely in the hands of Israel, now the reality has completely changed.
“By nature I am not a pessimist,” the Rebbe writes to Maj. Gen. Yariv, “and of course my desire is to see the positives in everything... nevertheless, despite this strongest desire, a person should not fool himself about anything, not to mention such serious things...”
In the extension of the same letter, the Rebbe mentions the “Maginot Line” (the famous French line of fortifications, which was easily broken by Germany in World War II) and quotes expert opinion that this method has proved to be unsuccessful. And that is why a mobile defense is much preferable today.
“As for the construction of the Bar Lev Line” (Israel’s line of fortifications along the Suez Canal), Gilboa says, “with the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, it became clear that the Rebbe was absolutely right.”
It is important to note that in an article published by Rabbi Sh.-Z. Zevin in connection with the half-century anniversary of the Rebbe’s leadership — on the 10th of Shvat 5735 — he writes about the Rebbe’s connection with Israeli leaders and in addition to mentioning names of prime ministers and presidents Rabbi Zevin also mentions only one military man — Aharon Yariv: "The Rebbe’s influence on many secular men is also great. It is not without reason that many top Israeli personalities came to him, including prime ministers who were impressed by his personality. The deceased Moshe Sharet, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Shimon Peres, Menachem Begin, Aharon Yariv and many others. By showing the love which the Rebbe is full of, spreading friendship and warmth around him to all those around him, many, including non-Chassidim, are drawn to his love and respect for him.
When the country’s leaders are firmly committed to Israel’s security interests, Americans understand and act accordingly...
Gilboa, as one who has documented the special bond that developed between Maj. Gen. Yariv and the Rebbe, shared his view of how he understands the Rebbe’s role in this relationship: “While reviewing the Rebbe’s letters to Maj. Gen. Yariv, I was amazed at the Rebbe’s special approach. As I said earlier, the Rebbe believed that one should not bow down to other nations, nor should one show weakness or a willingness to make compromises in all matters concerning the security of the people in Israel. The Rebbe also emphasized that at times, when the security of Israel is at stake, one must show even to the greatest friends their boundaries, but not compromise. In several of his letters, the Rebbe emphasizes that in our world, weakness only leads to more pressure.”
In this context, Gilboa first publishes from the same documents the story of an event that occurred in the month of Elul, 5730, from which we can understand today how we should behave with our greatest friend, the United States.
In the same month of Elul, the AMAN and the Mossad received information that the Egyptians had violated the cease-fire and moved modern SAMs to the Suez Canal. Israel appealed to the US administration (which was the guarantor of the cease-fire agreement). The latter, in turn, decided to conduct an aerial survey over the Suez Canal to verify the information. Two American reconnaissance planes were secretly redirected to Cyprus, from where they made several raids over the canal.
But it turned out that the Americans were not satisfied: AMAN received a report that the Americans had taken advantage of Israel’s agreement to overfly the south of our country to make an aerial survey of Israeli territory, taking an interest not in the Egyptians but in Israeli military installations, including what was then commonly called the “textile factory” in Dimona...
Israel immediately sent an immediate explicit warning to the United States not to allow American reconnaissance planes to fly over southern Israel until further clarification. Nevertheless, American intelligence planes continued to fly over Israel.
To clarify the situation, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan sent Major General Aharon Yariv to meet with US intelligence officials.
“We were very surprised when the plane showed up with us,” Yariv remarked bitterly to his American counterpart. — “It’s important that this doesn’t happen again in the future. We want this kind of aerial photography to continue only if we ask for it...”
“If such a request comes from the United States government,” Major General Yariv continued, “we will consider it and do everything possible to accommodate you... The route of such a flight has to be approved by us in advance, not just brought to our attention... We hope there will be no more misunderstandings and disruptions.”
Even harsher remarks were made by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan after Major General Yariv returned from a meeting with the Americans: “It is unacceptable for an American plane to fly over Israeli territory,” Dayan raged, after which he threatened: “We will not intercept a plane if it enters Israeli airspace, but we will send a plane that will force it to land on an Israeli airfield... he will become our guest. We didn’t invite him or call him and we don’t want him to fly in Israeli airspace.”
(One can imagine the eruption in the media if the Israeli minister had allowed himself such words today.)
Nevertheless, the Americans heard the defense minister’s words, and the threat worked: the Americans retreated and have been taking aerial photos exclusively over Egyptian territory ever since.
“This story,” concludes Gilboa, “teaches us that in those days the Israeli leadership was determined and did not hesitate to stand up for Israeli interests before the American administration in matters that seemed important to its national security.”
This story is still relevant today, especially for all those who are willing to give up the land of our fathers and ancestors just to gain the sympathy of outsiders and to avoid American pressure, for example. In those same years, even in matters far less important than giving up the Land of Israel in favor of the worst of our enemies, our leaders knew how to behave very differently.
Note: Sadly, shortly after the incident described above, in which the Secretary of Defense strongly opposed the U.S. administration by threatening to intercept U-2 spy planes that were photographing Dimona, the political echelon — Prime Minister Golda and Defense Minister Dayan — bowed to the administration on a much more important issue and did not allow the IDF to mobilize reserves and launch a preemptive strike on the eve of the Yom Kippur War — even though they had an explicit warning about Egyptian and Syrian intentions to go to war on Yom Kippur.