, which operated to help Jews escape from
Nazi-occupied Europe. He was also active in organizing clandestine arms purchases.
Avigur was largely a self-taught man, and the intelligence services that he founded, which would
evolve indirectly into the world famous Mossad intelligence service, developed on a trial and terror basis. The Mossad
l'Aliya Bet had a total of ten agents in Europe, who were charged with the nearly impossible tasks of organizing illegal
immigration, chartering ships and removing Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe.
Israel War of Independence he helped to set up the Israel Defense Ministry. His son Gur was
killed during the war, and he changed his name to Avigur (father of Gur).
In 1952, Stalin's paranoid purge of Jewish doctors, the "Doctor’s Plot" rang
an alarm bell about immediate danger to Soviet Jewry.
Ben-Gurion tapped Shaul Avigur, to form a small organization to be called
the “Office with No Name.” It was nominally a part of the Foreign Ministry, but
actually reported to the prime minister.
“whatever he did, or ordered to have done, was carried out with maximum secrecy,
and everyone was suspect, in his eyes, of possible indiscretion.” In those days
all Israeli secret operations maintained strict anonymity of personnel. The
existence of some organizations was not published, and heads of organizations
were known by initials.
Through the Israel embassy Moscow, Avigur and embassy staff built a grass
roots underground. Staffers distributed literature, including a simple
Russian-Hebrew dictionary. They gave talks about Israel, Jewish history and
Jewish culture being careful to refrain from anti-Soviet propaganda. Beginning
in 1955 the operation enlisted travelers to Russia from Western nations who
would be willing to bring up the issue of Soviet Jewry with Soviet leaders.
Avigur was aiming for three concessions. Soviet Jews should be allowed to
express their Jewishness, contact Jews in other countries, and repatriate to
The post Stalin era detente diplomacy should have offered a means of
improving the lot of Soviet Jews. Unfortunately, the World Jewish
Congress, headed by Nahum Goldmann, claimed that there was no discrimination
against Jews in the USSR, and advocated improved Israeli-Soviet relations,
rather than emigration of Soviet Jews.
The Office with No Name was given the code name Nativ (path). Its
public name was Lishkat HaKesher (Liaison Bureau). Despite the opposition of
American organizations, the quiet work continued. The first fruits of this work
began appearing following the
Six day war, when
Soviet Jews took up the struggle for
Aliya, Nativ continued
its work through agents with western passports after the USSR broke diplomatic
relations in 1967. It managed to keep alive the spirit of resistance and to
raise consciousness about Jewish nationality in difficult circumstances. When
the USSR fell, over a million Jews emigrated to Israel. Avigur retired in 1969,
just as the movement to free Soviet Jewry was beginning, and died in 1979.
External Zionism Links
This site provides resources about Zionism and Israeli history, including links to
source documents. We are not responsible for the information content of these sites. These links are NOT intended to be
an exhaustive reference about Zionism, but the list will keep growing...
Please tell us about your favorite links and we will review them for inclusion.
Please do copy these links to your Web site,
giving credit to
Zionism and Israel Information Center
Please link to us
and to our
Sister Web sites - Zionism Pages and Zionism and Israel On the Web
- Definition and Brief History - A balanced article that covers the
definitions and history of Zionism as well as opposition to Zionism and criticisms by Arabs, Jewish anti-Zionists.