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Interview: Fifty Years Since the Death of Heroic Spy Eli Cohen

Nadia Cohen, widow of legendary Israeli spy, speaks to Arutz Sheva on grief - and on the state's failures to locate her husband's body.
By Benny Toker and Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 8/15/2014, 1:41 PM

Eli Cohen, hy"d
Eli Cohen, hy"d
National Photo Archives

Nadia Cohen, widow of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen, who was killed in Syria in 1965 and whose body has still not yet been returned to Israeli soil, has accused the state of Israel of abandoning her husband fifty years after his murder. 

"Now, when we demand that Hamas return the bodies of the two soldiers [Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, hy"d - ed.] and bring them for burial in Israel, they must do the same for Eli - we are no less than these [bereaved families], fifty years after his murder," Cohen said. 

Eli Cohen, who infiltrated the highest echelons of Syria and was executed after his capture, is remembered by Israel and the world as one of the greatest spies of Israel.

Levi Eshkol, Israel's prime minister during the Six-Day War, stated that "the actions of Eli Cohen to Israel spared many divisions of soldiers, and the information brought was invaluable and resulted in the great victory in the Six Day War." 

After he was executed by hanging, Cohen was buried in Damascus, and Syrians have not responded to the request to allow him to be brought home for burial in Israel. 

Cohen reflected on the fifty-year mark in a special interview with Arutz Sheva on Friday. 

"There were certain officials sought [for answers on Cohen's whereabouts], but the Syrians do not give information to us; it passes from one generation to the next, a directive not to transmit information [to Israel]," Cohen said. "I know the intelligence agencies tried and appointed people to act on it for the future, but over the years they have given up."

"We traded captives and bodies [over the years], but never asked for them to return my husband," she continued. "This was a screw-up, people were replaced on their side as well, but they skipped over Eli."

Nadia Cohen described the suffering she has been going through until today, as she has no grave to visit fifty years later.

"I wish with all my heart to see him and talk to him (his grave) as if he was alive, but in light of the results and the failures I do not think it will happen," she said. "After all these years, I still get emotional; I still have tears in my eyes. Over time it doesn't get better, only worse."

And to the Shaul and Goldin families?

"Fight and fight [the system] for your sons' bodies to be returned," she urged.