How a Mel­bourne boy be­came a Mos­sad spy

The Weekend Australian - Review - - BOOKS - Antony Loewenstein

Pris­oner X By Rafael Ep­stein MUP, 194pp, $29.99 UN­DER­STAND­ING the in­su­lar and tribal Mel­bourne Jewish com­mu­nity has fas­ci­nated so­ci­ol­o­gists for decades. With one of the largest con­cen­tra­tions of Holo­caust sur­vivors out­side of Is­rael, proudly Zion­ist and with strong Jewish day schools, it’s a world that cre­ated Ben Zy­gier, the Aus­tralian Mos­sad agent who com­mit­ted sui­cide in a high-se­cu­rity Is­raeli prison in 2010.

April 12-13, 2014

When ABC tele­vi­sion’s For­eign Cor­re­spon­dent broke the ex­plo­sive rev­e­la­tions of so-called Pris­oner X last year, de­fy­ing the Is­raeli me­dia’s def­er­en­tial po­si­tion to­wards govern­ment se­crecy, there was in­tense scru­tiny of the role of Mos­sad in Aus­tralia and glob­ally.

ABC in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter Rafael Ep­stein at­tempts to un­ravel the se­crets of Zy­gier’s life as some­body who shares a sim­i­lar back­ground: this book in­cludes a pho­to­graph of the au­thor as a young man in the Galilee, hold­ing a bor­rowed AR-15 ri­fle dur­ing a visit to the Jewish state.

Ep­stein de­tails Zy­gier’s trans­for­ma­tion from a boy “brought up on sto­ries of the ex­ploits of Is­rael’s soldiers and spies” into an in­di­vid­ual who de­cided to ded­i­cate his life to what he viewed as pro­tect­ing Is­rael from harm. What cre­ates this fer­vour is Zion­ism — Ep­stein writes of his own ex­pe­ri­ences that “Zion­ist youth move­ments were part of the be­gin­ning of the

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