(JTA) — Shulamit “Shula” Cohen-Kishik, a a spy for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency who worked undercover in Lebanon for 14 years, has died at 100.
Cohen-Kishik, who was codenamed “The Pearl,” died Sunday at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
The Buenos Aires, Argentina, native was raised by Zionist parents who moved the family to prestate Israel. She married Joseph Kishik, a wealthy Jewish-Lebanese businessman from Beirut, when she was 16 and the couple settled in Lebanon.
At 27 she began working for the Mossad, spending the next decade and a half helping to bring persecuted Jews from Arab countries to Israel and gathering intelligence information about Arab military activities — information she was able to collect by getting herself accepted into Lebanon’s high society.
She was caught smuggling in 1952 and taken to jail just three weeks after giving birth, where she spent 36 days in confinement. Cohen-Kishik continued her clandestine activities for another nine years before things became too dangerous and she moved to Rome for three months.
Upon her return to Lebanon in 1961, she was arrested immediately for espionage. While in prison during the trial she was brutally tortured. Sentenced to death by hanging, the verdict was reduced to 20 years of hard labor because she was a mother of seven.
In 1967, Cohen-Kishik was released in a secret prisoner exchange following the Six-Day War. She then immigrated with her family to Jerusalem, where she spent the rest of her life.
Cohen-Kishik was chosen to light a torch for Israel’s Independence Day ceremony in 2007.
“I never worked for a prize or for glory,” she said. “I did what I did because I wanted to, because I loved the country and I wanted to help its establishment.”
A video made in 2011 by her grandson tells her history, and includes photos of Cohen-Kishik as a baby in Buenos Aires, in Lebanon and with her own testimony, and also singing an Argentinean tango song “A Su Memoria,” or “To His Memory.”
Her son Itzhak Levanon was Israel’s ambassador to Egypt from 2009 to 2011.
She is survived by her seven children, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.