• iKonnect

Eli Cohen - A Quick Scan

Updated: May 6

Eli Cohen, the man, and the legend was arguably Israel's greatest spy of all time. The things he did, and the information he secretly sent over to the Israeli Defense Forces probably saved the lives of thousands of soldiers during the Six-Day-War, and most likely still affect the Israeli nation until this day.


You've probably heard the general story, of how Eli Cohen turned into the hero that he was, So we decided to share with you some less-known facts about "our man in Damascus".


Early life

  • Cohen was born in Alexandria, Egypt, where he learned in the Jewish Rambam school.

  • After his graduation, he began studying electronic engineering at Alexandria University.

  • After arriving in Israel in 1957, Cohen worked as a translator for the IDF intelligence, translating Arab articles into Hebrew.

The Spy

  • Just five days after Eli Cohen moved to Israel, he applied to the 188 unit, the IDF's secret intelligence unit, that activated agents in enemy states. Even though his CV included the facts that he spoke 7 different languages, and that he was willing to be sent to any Arab country, his application was denied, due to the fact that the Egyptian intelligence knew who he was.

  • In May 1960, Eli Cohen was recruited by the 188 unit. Some people insist that the IDF cause Eli Cohen's dismissal from his previous job, in order for him to agree to join the unit.

  • According to American documents, the person that accompanied Cohen to Damascus, and helped him settle in the city, was, in fact, an American source, that was paid by the American government. Wow!


Eli Cohen with his friends from the Syrian Army in the Golan Heights, overlooking Israel.
Syrian military personnel, Eli Cohen at the Golan Heights, public domain
  • After Cohen became a spy in Damascus, he went on a tour of the Syrian posts on the Israeli border, alongside a Syrian general. After noticing the soldiers and officers were standing in the sun, he offered to plant trees for shade in all of the posts. After all the trees were planted, he was able to tell the Israeli forces exactly where each enemy post was, something that tremendously assisted the Israeli side during the Six-Day War.

  • In January 1965, The Syrian forces suspected there was a spy, so they cut off all the Syrian radio servers. Cohen, that wasn't aware of this action, kept on signaling information to the Israeli intelligence, thus the Syrian forces apprehended him.


The Capture

  • Eli Cohen was tortured in prison for three weeks before the Syrians announced they apprehended an Israeli spy.

  • Eli Cohen wasn't tried as a spy, so as not to shame the Syrian government. Instead, the main charge against him was for entering restricted areas on his tour of the Israeli border.

  • The life and work of Eli Cohen are commemorated in the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.

This antenna was used to communicate with Eli Cohen while he was in Syria. It was hidden between pine trees and only used in the dark hours of the night.