As we know, the trajectory of the average person’s life is often replete with unusual twists and turns, but for Shalva Hessel, the author of “Married to the Mossad” (the new thriller based on her true life experiences) life’s circumstances not only saw her not only immersed in an undercover operation in a hostile country but leading the kind of double life that only a veteran Hollywood script writer could conjure up.
As the old adage goes, “life is more bizarre than fiction” and so it was for the young woman who had grown up on a moshav in central Israel and who later studied software engineering while in college.
“My father was the largest etrog dealer in Israel and my family was religious. I thought I would have a fairly ordinary life when I was growing up,” she recalled with a sense of irony. So, how did a nice Jewish girl end up marrying a Mossad agent whilst willingly taking on dangerous assignments for the security of her people and her homeland?
“I was studying computer science at the Technion Institute in Haifa and met the man that I was to marry through a friend, “ says Shalva with a wistful tone in her voice. “He was based in London and was an academic; studying at the London School of Economics. We began to write letters to one another and I met up with him in London in 1979. Admitting that theirs was a whirlwind courtship, Shalva says, “After spending ten days together we decided to get married.”
As Shalva settled down to what she had thought would be a fairly sedate married life in London, she was under the impression that her husband was employed as a low level official at the Israeli embassy, or at least that is what he told her. When she saw that he was disappearing at all hours of the night and was keeping a frenetic schedule her suspicions were naturally aroused. “It was then that I confronted my husband and insisted that he tell me the truth concerning his whereabouts in the wee hours of the morning. After intensive negotiations with his handlers, he finally revealed to me that he was engaged in assignments for the Mossad,” she said.
After dealing with the initial shock of such a life altering admission, Shalva was informed by her husband that he had been offered an assignment in a hostile country and that she was to stay back in London until he returned. As a woman possessed with a fearless and intrepid nature, Shalva expressed her enthusiasm at the prospect of joining her husband and his work. “Initially, my husband strenuously objected to my eagerness to join him, but when he saw that I was not backing down from my position, he reluctantly agreed as it became clear to him that it was a fait accompli. It was then that I began to receive rigorous training, both mental and physical as a Mossad agent.”
With her platinum blond hair and fair skin, there is no doubt that Shalva could be a dead ringer for a Nordic type or any non-Jewish caucasian for that matter as well as easily fitting in any culture. And that is exactly what she did.
Shalva gave birth to two sons while undercover for the Mossad and was ferried out of he hostile country in which she lived at the time in order to give birth. “My husband and I were very successful in our missions as we lived a double life.” As for her concern for her children, Shalva says, “My sons became accustomed to us leading a false life as we went undercover, but the consequences for them actually helped them develop competing identities.” She said that her sons became acclimated to ever y society, every culture and every religion. Yet, she admits that her sons “never felt at home anywhere.” Because of the very strong Jewish identity that Shalva had instilled in her sons, they gained a clear comprehension that their future would be one of service to their people and their G-d.
“When I look back in retrospect at what I have accomplished in my life; going undercover with the Mossad and placing my life in peril on a regular basis during dangerous and stressful situations, I came to the conclusion that I have the innate ability to improvise. I am very tough and life has taught me that I can do this kind of work,” says Shalva.
Shalva attributes her stoic demeanor and inherent resilience to the education she received while growing up. “My parents instilled in me an unwavering faith in G-d. I have always believed that if you commit yourself to cause that is larger than yourself, then G-d will help you every step of the way, and during the course of my life I have seen that come to fruition. If whatever you do is for the betterment of humanity, then you will be a success,” she said.
Adding that she inculcated this philosophy in to her sons, she recalls, “When my boys were young I taught them that we have to learn to live with fear but they must be the boss of their own fear and they must control their own fear. As a result, my sons learned not to be selfish and to give of themselves.”
Being a woman in a male dominated profession such as espionage also carries its own distinct sets of responsibilities. “When I joined the Mossad, they had mulled over the possibility of expanding their cadre of women. I kind of broke the mold in the sense that subsequent to my involvement in the Mossad, there were many women whose curiosity was piqued about the Mossad and my involvement gave them encouragement to join as well.”
Putting pen to paper and revealing the nuances of her clandestine work was no easy task for Shalva as her handlers in the hierarchy of the Mossad had voiced their staunch opposition to placing their reconnaissance work under the public microscope.
“My book took a very long time to be published as I needed the approval of the Mossad. We kept going back and forth with them as they censored many sections of the book as well as certain topics pertaining to authentic investigations,” said Shalva.
She adds: “In my book, I am placed in the center of an international investigation of a cruel and dangerous group. All the components of an exciting thriller are here but they are all true. Money, death, tricks and love. The case was not connected to the Mossad but the Mossad was blamed. I felt that I needed to save this family from these reprehensible people. I must admit that this experience really changed my life.”
As a result, she says, “suddenly a lot of people from all walks of life began reaching out to me for help. My network of international contacts were expanding with each passing day and I began to earn a reputation as a dedicated and thorough investigator who produced results; especially in difficult to resolve cases. I have come to learn that the police are limited in some respects as to what they can do to in the realm of exacting justice.”
Today, Shalva operates her own private investigation company and is a speaker that is very much in demand on the lecture circuit. “I travel around the world to speak not only about my multifarious adventures with the Mossad but the investigative work that I currently do. I must admit, however, that my motivation is based on helping people in need. I only take on cases that I really care about. In life, it is what we care about and what we sacrifice for that helps to define our characters. Living for others and contributing to the significant enhancement of the human experience is the greatest gift we could bestow to our families and communities,” she says.
Married to the Mossad is available for sale at Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) or through Shalva Hessel’s web site at: marriedtothemossad.com. The book can also be purchased at your local book retailer.
By: Fern Sidman