Sylvia Rafael was a native of South Africa who, in her mid-20s, immigrated to Israel and began working for the Mossad, the country’s foreign intelligence service. Rafael underwent two years of tough training as an agent, including a course in photography with one of the leading press photographers in Israel. In “Sylvia Rafael: The Life and Death of a Mossad Spy,” Ram Oren and Moti Kfir write that Rafael’s cover story suited her well. “She had a sharp eye, an easy manner of approaching people, and good control of photographic techniques.” She spent six months in Vancouver establishing her cover as freelance photographer Patricia Roxenburg, then traveled to Paris on a Canadian passport to work for the Dalmas news agency. In 1973, Rafael and five other Mossad agents were arrested in Lillehammer, Norway for the murder of Ahmed Bouchikh, a Moroccan waiter. The Mossad had mistaken Bouchikh for Ali Hassan Salameh, a high-ranking member of a Palestinian militant organization called Black September. Rafael was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, but was released and deported after 15 months. She married her defense attorney, Annæus Schjødt, and the couple moved to South Africa. Rafael passed away in 2005, aged 67, from cancer. In March, Ronen Bergman reported for The New York Times that Rafael’s work would be shown to the public for the first time “after being kept for decades in a locked suitcase in the Mossad archive.” The photographs included portraits of world leaders, scenes of flooding in Yemen and social unrest in Djibouti, as well as daily life in Lebanon and Jordan, two countries which would have been off limits for Israelis, let alone Mossad agents.
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