Chaim Topol, the late, award-winning actor who starred in such films as ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘For Your Eyes Only’, lived a double life as an agent for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, his family has claimed in an interview with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
Topol, who died in Tel Aviv last month at the age of 87, was one of Israel’s most respected cultural figures – but this was, according to several members of his family, balanced with a life of conducting clandestine operations on behalf of his country’s intelligence services in London.
The Mossad is the notorious Israeli spying agency known for its numerous assassinations of Palestinians, Arab and other political and resistance figures.
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“I don’t know exactly what the appropriate definition is for the missions and duties he performed,” his son Omer, 61, told Haaretz. “But what is clear is that Dad was involved in secret missions on behalf of Mossad.”
His widow, Galia, maintained that the specifics of Topol’s second career were “not discussed” but he was, she said, “always motivated by adventure and courage.”
She added that she could recall several memories of Topol bringing a small Minox camera and recording devices on foreign trips; the destinations of which were rarely disclosed.
Topol’s liaison in Mossad was his close friend, Peter Zvi Malkin, according to another of his sons, Adi. In one secretive operation detailed by Haaretz, the pair traveled to a European capital city to wiretap the embassy of an Arab country while renting the apartment next door.
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When security services became suspicious of the drilling sounds and knocked on the door, Topol employed his acting skills to suggest he was merely engaged in some dentistry, the report claimed.
His fame, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, afforded him access otherwise denied to more traditional agents. He was greeted warmly in China and in the Soviet bloc despite their tense relations with Israel. He took advantage of these situations to deploy sensitive recording devices, Haaretz reported.
On the silver screen, it was ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ for which he was best known. It garnered him a Golden Globe win and an Academy Award nomination. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for the 1991 Broadway revival of the famous musical.
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In 2015, he was awarded an ‘Israel Prize’ – the country’s most prestigious honor – for his achievements and contributions to the Israeli state and society.