Nadia Cohen Biography
Nadia Cohen is the widow of one of Israel's most successful and famous spies ever, Eli Cohen. Eli was on a secret mission against Syria, in the guise of a Syrian businessman, but was caught. Eli was hanged publicly in Syria. Nadia has three children from Eli and is still struggling to get her husband’s remains. She did not remarry and raised her children single-handedly. Eli and Nadia loved each other dearly, but he never gave a hint of his real profession to her. Nadia always believed Eli was a defense official. The 2019 'Netflix' series 'The Spy,' based on Eli's life, primarily focuses on his love story with Nadia.
- Nadia (born Nadia Majald) is an Iraqi Jew who got married to Eli on August 31, 1959. Since Eli did not have a steady job back then, even though he worked as an accountant, he had to rely more on Nadia to help support the family and their marriage. Eventually, they had three children: Sophie Ben-Dor, Irit Peleg, and Shai Cohen.
- In 1960, the national intelligence agency of Israel, 'Mossad,' approached Eli for a classified mission in Syria. He was supposed to stay in Buenos Aires as a Syrian émigré businessman named Kamal Amin Ta’abet.
- Nadia was told that Eli was working for the ministry of defense and would be completely safe. Nadia believed it and went to see him off at the airport in 1961. She had no idea about Eli’s secret mission and thus did not see the threats and risks involved.
- In January 1965, Syrian security officers broke into Eli’s apartment while he was in the middle of his escape to Israel. He was caught and sentenced to death.
- On May 15, 1965, Eli wrote a final letter to Nadia, requesting her not to mourn his death and stating that she should hold her head high, as her husband had done nothing wrong. He also requested her to remarry so that their children would have a father and she would have a partner. Nadia, however, never remarried.
- On May 18, 1965, Eli was publicly hanged at the ‘Marjeh Square’ in Damascus, Syria. In November that year, Nadia, wrote to Syrian politician and former president of Syria (1971–2000) Hafez al-Assad, asking him to forgive Eli and requesting him to hand over her husband’s remains.
- Years later, in February 2007, a Turkish official confirmed that the government had agreed to look into the matter of returning Eli's remains to his family. Unfortunately, Nadia and her family are still waiting to get Eli’s body and have not made peace with it. Nadia wishes to be buried beside Eli’s grave.
- Over the years, Nadia has made several efforts to seek a bit of mercy from Syrian officials. She once called her children and four grandchildren to her home in Herzliya, clicked a photo of them together, and sent it to Assad, congratulating him on the birth of his son, Bashar. It, however, did not change the situation.
- Nadia still holds a grudge against the 'Mossad' handlers who had sent Eli to Syria, an action that had taken him away from her, forever.
- Recalling Eli’s final days, Nadia states he was in Bat Yam, with her and the three babies. Their youngest child, Shai, was only 21 days old then. Eli's handlers were continually persuading him to return.
- In 2016, Nadia told 'Israel Radio' that former 'Mossad' chief Meir Dagan had asked the US officials to help bring Eli’s remains. The previous year, which marked Eli’s 50th death anniversary, Nadia had addressed a memorial dedicated to him.
- Nadia and 'Mossad' were on bad terms until Meir Dagan was made the agency’s chief. Since then, Nadia has always counted on him. They even started to organize a ceremony for Eli at the 'Mossad' headquarters in Glilot.
- On January 25, 2000, Nadia presented a picture of a new postage stamp with Eli’s face, to Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, honoring her husband.
- Eli’s larger-than-life persona has attracted many filmmakers, who have then used his story for their projects. In the 1987 TV movie 'The Impossible Spy,' Michal Bat-Adam portrayed Nadia, while in the 2019 'Netflix' series 'The Spy,' Hadar Ratzon-Rotem played her, with Sacha Baron Cohen as Eli.
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