Chronicles of Conflict: A Personal Perspective on the Israel-Hamas War

I was in Israel during the recent Jewish holidays when a senseless and brutal attack took place, targeting Israeli civilians of all ages, including men, women, and children. This tragic incident unfolded on the final day of the Jewish autumn holiday cycle, during Simhat Torah/Shmini Atzeret.

My Journey in Israel, October 7-12

On the morning of Saturday, October 7, I found myself at my nephew Rabbi Yair Silverman’s synagogue, partaking in the Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah festivities. This marked the culmination of our Rosh Hashana-Yom Kippur-Sukkot holiday season. Simchat Torah is a special occasion where we commemorate the conclusion of the annual synagogue readings of the Torah, also known as The Five Books of Moses and also restart the reading cycle anew, beginning with the story of Genesis/Bereishit.

As we gathered before the service commenced, my nephew, Rabbi Silverman, delivered some unsettling news: there had been an attack on Israel. He suggested that anyone feeling the need for refuge should seek it out. Despite this, the majority of us chose to remain united in our determination to carry on with the synagogue services. The atmosphere remained festive and joyous throughout the day, and, as planned, we reconvened at 6 p.m. for a scheduled talk by one of our congregation members and the closing service.

That evening, as we turned on our electronic devices, we were informed that “Israel was at war” with Hamas in Gaza. Later that night, my nephew received a remarkable phone call from a Rabbi in Tel Aviv. A couple who had planned to marry in Tel Aviv the following day did not want to postpone their wedding. They inquired if my nephew could officiate at their marriage in Zichron Yaakov. This request is rooted in a long-standing tradition derived from rabbinic teachings, emphasizing the importance of not delaying joyous occasions, such as weddings or bar mitzvahs, even in the face of adversity, like unexpected loss or tragic events.

My nephew willingly took on the responsibility and, along with his congregation, orchestrated a wedding for the young couple and their entourage. The heartfelt ceremony took place the very next day, on Sunday, October 8, at 1 p.m., hosted within the walls of their synagogue. It was a momentous occasion attended by the bride’s extended family and close friends while adhering to our cherished traditions. The synagogue community, spanning across generations, joined in to celebrate this joyous event with the family. I was fortunate to capture a video, and the family has graciously permitted me to share these precious moments with you.

The next day, at noon, I made my way back to my apartment in Jerusalem, in the center of Israel among the Judean hills, a distance of an hour and a half drive from Zichron Yaakov, which is situated just south of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast. As I arrived, my phone buzzed incessantly with updates from various WhatsApp groups, each one fervently discussing how to navigate the unfolding situation. They shared information about what had been cancelled, what should be done, and what was still scheduled to proceed. Among all these bustling groups, my pilates community proved to be particularly active, and I couldn’t help but notice that we were all set for a class the following day.

The highly anticipated concert featuring Ishay Ribo, a renowned artist known for his soul-stirring interpretations of biblical texts, originally slated to grace the grand stage of Jerusalem’s Binyanei Hauma, was cancelled, and ticket refunds were promptly issued.

As a sample of Ishai Rebo’s artistry, I share a snippet of his concert on a Jerusalem stage on November 26, 2019, retrieved from YouTube. Commencing the evening’s musical journey, he sings “Modeh Ani,” a heartfelt ode expressing gratitude for each new day, a prayer commonly recited at the dawn of the morning prayers. What stands out is the harmonious union of the audience, fervently joining their voices in this melodic prayer. These concerts transcend mere musical performances and simulate the essence of a collective spiritual experience reminiscent of a live prayer service.


We received guidance from government authorities through official media channels and WhatsApp groups, urging us to prepare our homes for the current reality. This involved ensuring everyone collected ample water, food, flashlights, and transistor radios for their bomb shelters. I ventured out with my friend Sarah Kraft, who graciously offered to drive to our nearby mall. Our visit led us to various establishments, including the electronics store, the hardware shop, the health food boutique, and the supermarket. In a quest to find transistor radios, we encountered an unexpected challenge, as the electronics store had run out of stock. Thankfully, they pointed us in the direction of a nearby place specializing in cell phones, located across the street from the mall. There, we managed to secure the last remaining transistor radios.

All of Israel united collectively to ensure the soldiers and the home front were well-equipped with vital resources. Some individuals gathered protective gear and ammunition, while others dedicated themselves to preparing meals for the 300,000 reservists called to duty on short notice. Simultaneously, many groups offered spiritual support through communal singing, dancing, and many Torah classes, both in-person and via Zoom. Additionally, they handcrafted “tzitzit,” undergarments adorned with fringes meant to serve as a poignant reminder of a Jewish man’s connection to the Torah. These were made available to any soldiers who desired them.

In my Jerusalem residence, we are fortunate to have a bomb shelter in the building, but my friend Sarah, who resides in a building without one, faced a challenging decision. We all had to make choices on how to prepare for the uncertain times ahead. I had a pre-scheduled Air Canada direct flight back to Montreal on Thursday, October 12. However, all international flights to and from Tel Aviv were abruptly cancelled, leaving El Al, the national airline of Israel, as the only carrier operating in and out of Ben Gurion airport.

The CBC announced that the Canadian government would provide evacuation services for Canadian citizens in Israel. I immediately reached out to my travel agent. She advised that if I purchased an El Al ticket to Zurich for $400, Air Canada would honour my ticket to continue my journey to Montreal. I decided to go ahead with this option. Before my departure, I entrusted Sarah with the keys to my apartment.

Since my El Al flight to Zurich arrived two hours later than scheduled, Air Canada arranged an overnight stay at an airport hotel in Zurich. It rebooked me on a 6 a.m. flight to Brussels, followed by a rapidly timed connecting flight to Montreal. Finally, I arrived in Montreal at 1 p.m. on Friday, October 13. My luggage did not accompany me on the journey; however, it was delivered a few days later.

Re-entry to Montreal

Upon arrival, I was warmly invited to join my cousins for a typical Friday night dinner. The following day, I could attend the Shabbat morning synagogue service in my customary synagogue with Rabbi Poupko. The atmosphere during the service was comfortably familiar, except for a brief additional prayer dedicated to remembering the hostages and a heartfelt rendition of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. Hatikvah, also known as the “Hope” or “Aspiration,” resonated with the collective yearning of the last two thousand years for freedom in our homeland, making it a poignant and cherished moment of the gathering.

My reunion with the congregation was filled with relief and joy. As we reconnected, we openly shared our experiences and the challenges we had faced since the onset of hostilities. In this tight-knit community, we all have family and friends in Israel, and many of us have connections to individuals who have tragically lost their lives. Our sense of unity and vigilance remained high as we grappled with the uncertainty of the situation.

That night began a weekly tradition as our community gathered for an additional prayer service dedicated to reciting Tehilim (Psalms). We gathered to listen to words of comfort and support from our rabbis and to recite our designated psalms communally. Reciting Psalms is a cherished Jewish tradition that provides solace and strength in challenging times. This weekly act of unity and faith will continue in the weeks to come for as long as required by the situation. Bacol Serlui, a prominent Israeli poet, esteemed literary critic, and dedicated educator of Hebrew literature, shared her perspective on the profound tradition of reciting psalms.

“At noon on that dark Shabbat of the holiday of Simhat Torah, one of our sons went off to war. I almost died of fear, trembling, and sorrow for the little we knew, from worrying about him and others. And what does a person do when he has no way out? He cries and screams his way through. And like my mother and all the other women, I sat with my Tehillim, reciting from beginning to end until the close of the holiday, until my tears dried up and the breaking news broke me once again. I recite the Psalms again and again and feel that the Tehillim are reading me, dubbing my fear and sorrow, giving me a voice. Three millennia ago a Jew sat and poured out the agony of his soul in times of peace and war, and here he reaches out a hand of prayer and speaks to our own day, until we will be redeemed.


Psalms for a State of Vertigo, Tradition Magazine

Our influencers and Rabbis have eloquently reminded us that we are all now active participants in God’s divine mission, irrespective of whether we serve in the armed forces, contribute on the home front, or engage in contemplative prayer. They encourage a deepened dedication to mitzvahs, righteous actions, and prayer.

Furthermore, drawing inspiration from the timeless tale of Queen Esther, who, in the Purim narrative, called for a three-day communal fast before approaching King Ahashverosh, the Rabbis in Israel have decreed a similar three-day fast. This tradition mirrors the time when Haman had secured a decree to annihilate the Jewish community in Shushan, Persia (modern-day Iran), on an appointed day. Queen Esther, on a mission to avert this catastrophe, had implored the community to observe a three-day fast before her audience with King Ahashverosh. This moving narrative is commemorated annually during the festival of Purim, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

On Sunday, October 15, we marked Rosh Chodesh, the Jewish celebration of the new month. Several years ago, the women of Montreal initiated a remarkable tradition of hosting an exclusively female Rosh Chodesh service. Whenever I find myself in Montreal, I make it a point to attend this unique gathering. However, on this particular occasion, the service was even more special as we came together to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of a young girl who turned 12, a significant milestone in the life of every Jewish girl. Listening to her flawlessly chant the Torah portion for the day was an inspiring and moving experience. Surrounded by her classmates, friends, and family, we celebrated this important day in her life.

On October 16 and 17, I had the privilege of participating in a conference in Ottawa dedicated to addressing the issue of Antisemitism. This significant event was organized by CIJA – The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and had been planned before the outbreak of current hostilities. The conference served as a platform for a diverse group of 1,500 attendees, which included 250 high school and college students and professionals spanning from various fields, such as school board members, law enforcement officers, leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and dedicated researchers with expertise in combatting internet-based antisemitism. Among the attendees were grassroots advocates like myself, as well as notable politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Pierre Polievre, Jagmeet Singh, and Yves-François Blanchet, who delivered keynote addresses during the closing evening.

Throughout the conference, one testimonial left a profound impact on me. It was given by a dedicated teacher within the Ottawa Public School system, who courageously shed light on ongoing instances of relentless bullying targeting young Jewish children in public schools. These painful situations have persisted in recent years, raising serious concerns about the lack of intervention from school administrators.

On the second afternoon of the conference, attendees had the unique opportunity to engage in private meetings with Members of Parliament in their respective offices. I was fortunate to have a meeting scheduled with two esteemed parliamentarians: Sherry Romanado, MP representing Longueuil, Quebec, and Brad Redekopp, MP representing West Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. Both were exceedingly gracious with their time and genuinely eager to listen to our perspectives and insights. The depth of discussions during this conference is noteworthy, and I am fully dedicated to compiling a comprehensive report, which I will be delighted to share with you.

The Jewish community draws two profound lessons from the tragic events of World War II that resonate to this day: silence equates to complicity. And secondly, when individuals and communities unite, they become formidable agents of change.

After the conference, the Shaw Center’s front doors were secured, and we were directed to use alternative exits. I departed through the Rideau Center Mall, where I observed a noticeable police presence on street corners. While I awaited my departure, I couldn’t help but notice a group of individuals carrying a Palestinian flag as they passed by. It was only the following day that I discovered the presence of Palestinian protesters in the vicinity and how the police were diligently safeguarding both the Shaw Center and our conference.

Resilience and Unity: How the Jewish Community Responds

The Jewish people have a rich history of solidarity with our fellow brethren and displaying remarkable resilience in adversity. Throughout the centuries, Jewish communities have consistently demonstrated their commitment to caring for orphans, widows, and strangers. In Montreal, these noble endeavours are entrusted to the Federation- CJA, which tirelessly works to provide for those in need. Every year, the community comes together for a fundraising campaign, rallying to gather funds for these vital services. This year, our mission includes raising urgent funds for the war effort, which was initiated on the first day of the conflict.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a remarkable fundraising concert featuring some of my favourite Jewish entertainers who generously lent their talents to this noble cause on concise notice. Among them, Milena Kartowski delivered an awe-inspiring rendition of “Stand by Me,” leaving a lasting impression on all attendees.

Our enduring traditions, commitment to Torah study, and alignment with Torah principles have provided sustenance for the Jewish people throughout millennia in both prosperous and challenging times. This emphasis on regular Jewish practice is pivotal in our collective efforts to support Israel’s existential war of survival, which includes the eradication of the threat to our people from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Whether inside or outside Israel, we are all dedicated to the common good, working towards the recovery of our captives and the elimination of threats like Hamas, ensuring the safety of our people.

The Jewish community recognizes that the enduring issue of antisemitism, the enduring hatred directed towards Jews, which serves as a motivating force for entities like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, is far from a recent development. This understanding is voiced in the following passage from our Passover seder.

She’ lo echad bilvad amad aleinu l’chaloteinu
Since (through the ages), not only one group has stood over us to destroy us.

V’ha Kadosh, Baruch Hu, matzileynu mi’yadam.
But the Holy One, Blessed Be, always saves us from their hand!

On April 7, 2020, the talented Ishai Ribo enchanted the audience with his rendering of this Passover classic, “Vehi She’amda.” With his mesmerizing vocals, he breathed life into the timeless lyrics, reminding us that throughout history, many have tried to bring harm to our people.


However, God’s miracles unfold only when we actively engage in the world. It is a collective responsibility to confront and oppose evil. Every individual, regardless of age, must join the ranks of the Divine army to combat those seeking to harm us. We must consistently contribute to goodness, both as individuals and as a unified community. This call is extended to both the Jewish and non-Jewish members of our society.

Only when we have successfully eliminated such malevolence can we hope to usher in the messianic times when “the lion shall lie down with the lamb” — a peaceful world committed to universal well-being, health, and happiness.

We pray daily that it comes soon, speedily and in our time!

Hazan Mutlu of Central Synagogue in NYC recorded this prayer that we all recite on behalf of our brethren, facing adversity, wherever they may be on land or sea. We pray that the boundless mercy of God frees them from distress to comfort, from darkness to light, and from slavery to redemption now, soon and speedily in our time.

“Hashta ba’agala uvizman kariv”

We are united, we are prepared, and we have no question that we will prevail against the evil forces threatening us!

Am Yisrael Chai: The Jewish People are alive and living, now and forever!


Jerusalem-style Purim celebrations!

Purim observed globally on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar, takes on a unique twist in Jerusalem. Due to its classification as a “walled city” in sacred texts, the celebration in Jerusalem unfolds a day later than elsewhere.

On the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday, March 6 and 7, the vibrant spirit of Purim manifested in costumes, parades, festive meals, and lively gatherings throughout the streets of Jerusalem.

While non-Jews may draw parallels between Purim and festivities like Mardi Gras or Halloween due to the shared theme of costumed revelry, the essence of Purim transcends mere merriment. This Jewish holiday is rooted in deep spiritual and meaningful traditions and encompasses material and spiritual dimensions.

The material celebration is a spectacle enjoyed by people of all ages, featuring enthusiastic participation in costume-wearing, impromptu plays, the exchange of food gifts known as shalach-manot, and culminating in a joyous family meal, a seudah in the late afternoon before the conclusion of the holiday.

The spiritual facet revolves around the Hebrew reading of the Megillah, narrating the Purim story. Notably, women hold a special connection to Purim, as listening to the Megillah is one of the few commandments specifically incumbent upon them. Queen Esther, the text’s heroine, further emphasizes women’s significance in this celebration.

The Megillah is chanted in synagogues or private homes, ensuring widespread participation in the communal listening experience. This year, I attended the evening Megillah reading at Simhat Shlomo, my former Yeshiva in Nahlaot, near the bustling Jerusalem open-air market, the shuk. The scene in the shuk was electrifying, with open stalls selling customary Purim masks and treats, restaurants resonating with music, and people dancing into the night. Here is a glimpse into the festive atmosphere upon entering the shuk.

The infectious merriment even infiltrated a cell phone service store in a Jerusalem mall where I happened to be.

Purim celebration inside the mall in JerusalemI seized the opportunity to record videos within the Yeshiva during the Megillah reading. Now, immersed in Purim’s vibrant spirit, we truly embrace the festive atmosphere.

A diverse assembly of men, women, and children eagerly gathered, anticipating the arrival of our Megillah reader, Rabbi Leibish Hundert. In the meantime, we entertained ourselves with lively tales and joyful singing.

Megillah reading at Simhat Shlomo_Photo 4 Megillah reading at Simhat Shlomo_Photo 3 Megillah reading at Simhat Shlomo_Photo 2 Megillah reading at Simhat Shlomo_Photo 1

With anticipation in the air, Leibish commenced the Megillah reading.

In the afternoon, I received a gracious invitation to join my nephew, niece, and their family and friends for a communal Seudah, a festive meal.

shared seudah

For those seeking additional Purim Torah, I recommend exploring my earlier blog post, “What Purim Can Teach Us Today.”


Shabbat in Jerusalem

For my first Shabbat in Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land of Israel, I was welcomed into my nephew’s home in Kiryat Menachem—a burgeoning suburb in Jerusalem’s hills. The anticipation of extended local train service, nearly ready to launch, and the omnipresent cranes signalling the rise of high-rises infused the air with the pulse of progress. Despite these modern developments, Kiryat Menahem retained its charm as a fifteen-minute city, where a stroll could lead to most amenities. Rooted in the mountainsides, this older settlement also boasted preserved green spaces and easy access to Shvil Yisrael, the Israel Trail tracing the country’s length. A leisurely Shabbat afternoon walks along the trail immersed us in the vibrant hues of Jerusalem’s spring flowers, flourishing in the wild.

Throughout Shabbat, the children animatedly paraded their Purim costumes. Eitam, our seven-year-old, assumed the role of the Saba—the beloved grandfather who traditionally dispenses candy to children during Shabbat services in synagogues worldwide. Eagerly armed with his grandfather’s cane and a bag of sweets procured from a local store, Eitam enthusiastically embraced his role. Meanwhile, our eleven-year-old, Yehudit, chose to metamorphose into her teacher. Endowed with various choices—dresses, a purse, glasses, and even a wig—Yehudit’s transformation from eleven to thirty-five was remarkable and an exuberant source of amusement.

My subsequent Shabbat unfolded in my new abode within the Katamon neighbourhood—a quintessential residential enclave of Jerusalem situated beyond the confines of the “old city.” Characterized by the mandatory use of the pink Jerusalem stone in construction, Jerusalem’s distinctive architectural signature manifested in the pink stone garden fences lining my street.

Abigail Hirsch's street in Jerusalem

Take a quick tour of my tiny apartment, the harmonious blend of indoor and outdoor spaces facilitated through the enclosed balcony.

Abigal Hirch's apartment

At approximately 3 pm, there was a bustling flow of children and caregivers of all genders, and I captured these photos during that lively period.

Abigail Hirch's neighbourhood

Joyce, my next-door neighbour, who had recently made aliyah from Toronto just before the pandemic, graciously gifted me a batch of her delicious homemade challah. In addition to that, I decided to indulge in some cooked food from a local eatery catering to the Shabbat crowd.

Our neighbourhood boasts many large and small synagogues, including the Chabad House Synagogue. While learning about Chabad’s post-service lunch tradition on Shabbat, I attended their Friday night services. On my solitary walk home through a dimly lit street, I encountered a group of people engrossed in conversation in the middle of the road. To my surprise, one of them addressed me by name. It was the broker whose mother’s apartment I had just bought. Recognizing me in the neighbourhood for the first time, she warmly invited me to join them for supper and lunch the next day.

The following day, en route to the synagogue, I passed a school teeming with children. Upon entering, a little girl directed me to the adult service, where I discovered a woman delivering the Sabbath talk in an Orthodox prayer service.

Later, at Chabad’s post-services kiddush, I sat beside two English-speaking women with extensive experience living in Jerusalem and Israel. One was visiting her in-laws, recent immigrants from Los Angeles, while the other, a divorced woman starting anew in the neighbourhood, shared her plans of building a sound studio in her closet for a fresh career venture. As we conversed, it turned out that all three of us had resided on Lake Street in White Plains, NY, during nearly the same period many years ago.

What an incredible and interconnected world!


Spring in Israel

I landed in Israel on March 2nd, arriving from Montreal, and my journey has been a series of incredible encounters with remarkable individuals.

During the flight, I sat beside a young Ukrainian man from Odesa. He had spent the past year living and working in Prague, successfully navigating the challenges of obtaining a transfer from his employer and crossing the Russian border into Czechoslovakia. He was en route to visit his cousins in Tel Aviv, and his story unfolded as we shared the airspace.

Adjacent to us was a woman engrossed in a well-worn Bible. Hailing from Switzerland, she eagerly immersed herself in the places mentioned in the Bible, yearning to experience them firsthand. As we conversed, I provided insights into potential areas to explore, and our connection blossomed to the extent that she extended an invitation to visit her in Switzerland. This serendipitous encounter led to a delightful meal with her and her companions in Jerusalem a week later.

On the communal Sherut taxi, designed to accommodate around ten passengers from the airport directly to their respective destinations, I sat next to an American woman accompanied by a baby. She was returning from a wedding in Montreal, and her husband is currently engaged as a teacher at one of the Yeshivas in Jerusalem. Beside her was Orit Elgavi-Hershler, an Israeli neurobiologist educator fresh from her book launch in Tel Aviv. Captivated by her subject matter— the latest methods for addressing autism, schizophrenia, and related topics—we eagerly posed questions, further enriching our shared journey.

Neuropedagogia Where souls and education meet

Neuropedagogia: Where souls and education meet

The most remarkable moment was yet to transpire as I stepped off the sherut minibus, standing on the narrow sidewalk with my two oversized suitcases and two hefty carry-ons. To my amazement, a woman halted her car, skillfully parking it on my side of the sidewalk. She promptly emerged from her vehicle and approached me, offering assistance with my luggage.

Such a gesture, I mused, might be unparalleled elsewhere in the world. This heartwarming encounter unfolded just as I reached my new apartment in the sacred city of Jerusalem.


Heroes: Then and Now

The Five Books of Moses and the weekly Torah portions in synagogues are usually named after the first significant word in each book. For example, Shemot (Name in English) comes from the initial notable word in the opening sentence of The Book of Exodus.

These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt” (Exodus 1:1). In Hebrew, it is expressed as “Eleh Shemot B’nei Yisrael…”

While this terminology may seem straightforward, various interpretations have arisen regarding its significance. Recently, Rabbi Shipell of Lockdown University shared an intriguing perspective on this matter.*1

Some characters are explicitly named in The Book of Exodus, while many remain anonymous. Despite their lack of individual recognition, the collective impact of these unnamed figures is paramount. As our Passover Haggadah text emphasizes, without their specific contributions, “we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt.”

A man of the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son.” (Exodus 2:1-2)

Among the first individuals explicitly named in the text are the Egyptian midwives to the Hebrews, Shifra and Puah. Their actions constitute the world’s earliest recorded instance of civil disobedience in historical narrative.

Now, the king of Egypt spoke to the Egyptian midwives, one who was named Shifrah and the second who was named Puah. And he said, “When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall put him to death, but if it is a daughter, she may live.” (Exodus 1:17-21)

In defiance of Pharaoh’s orders, these midwives chose not to comply.

The midwives, however, feared God, so they did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they enabled the boys to live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said, “Why have you done this thing that you have enabled the boys to live?”

Another figure who defied Pharaoh’s immoral decrees was the Pharaoh’s daughter.

Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the Nile, and her maidens were walking along the Nile, and she saw the basket in the midst of the marsh, and she sent her maidservant, and she took it. She opened it, and she saw him, the child, and behold, he was a weeping lad, and she had compassion on him, and she said, “This is one of the children of the Hebrews.” (Exodus 2:5-6)

This narrative is the origin story of how Moses was rescued from certain death and subsequently named and adopted by the Egyptian princess. Notably, Pharaoh’s daughter remains unnamed in this account, yet she is the one who bestowed the name Moses upon the child—a name that persists to this day!

She bestowed upon him the name Moses, declaring, “For I drew him from the water” (Exodus 2:10), as expressed in the Hebrew phrase “min hamayim mishitihu.”

In the wake of the seventy-eighth anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, tales of unsung heroes continue to emerge, shedding light on individuals whose pivotal contributions were instrumental in securing victory. One such hero is Juan Pujol García, a Portuguese-born double agent whose bravery and cleverness played a crucial role in achieving victory during the war.

Juan Pujol García’s bold actions were crucial to the Allied victory. In the early 1930s, Pujol, driven by a strong desire to thwart Hitler’s ambitions, began a daring journey. His decision not to join Franco’s fascist army in Spain marked the start of a secretive mission, during which he adeptly posed as a loyal Nazi.

Pujol’s ingenuity led him to send deceptive reports to Germany, earning the trust of the Nazis and eventually a mission to recruit double agents in Britain. He staged an elaborate deception on English soil, creating a fake network of English double agents that confused the German High Command. Discovered by MI-6, the British intelligence agency, Pujol was officially enlisted as “Agent Garbo,” a skilled master of deception.

Agent Garbo’s strategic brilliance shone through as he skillfully deceived the German High Command several times, changing the course of history in favour of the Allies. Using creative tactics, he orchestrated the fabrication of convincing decoys such as balloon tanks and rows of planes, leading to German misperceptions about the upcoming Allied invasion.

Agent Garbo’s legacy highlights how personal courage and strategic thinking can influence the world. Surviving the war, Pujol penned his memoir, “Operation GARBO: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Double Agent of World War II,” co-authored with Nigel West and published on January 1, 1985. In our modern era, these stories of heroism remind us that the spirit of courage and selflessness still plays a role in shaping history, encouraging us all to embrace the heroic within ourselves.

The likes of Juan Pujol García are only now coming to light, uncovering many unknown heroes who silently played a crucial role in shaping history.

While watching “Simone, Woman of the Century,” I was introduced to another extraordinary figure—Simone Veil.

Veil’s life unfolded from a happy childhood in a secular Jewish family to the distressing events of her arrest and deportation to Auschwitz. The story highlights key moments, such as her high school graduation and her achievements after the war—marriage, raising a family, earning a French law degree, serving in the French government, and addressing issues faced by prisoners of war and drug users. Notably, she played a crucial role in securing legal abortion rights in a primarily Catholic country. Her journey concluded with her becoming the European Parliament’s first president, significantly contributing to preventing historical conflicts that troubled Europe for centuries.

This extraordinary odyssey often evokes the famous line spoken by Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

Simone Veil’s lasting impact demonstrates the profound influence one person can have on shaping a brighter future. Her commitment to political leadership, resilience, and passionate advocacy for women’s rights have left an indelible mark on history. Beyond politics, Veil’s passionate advocacy for women’s rights inspires those working towards gender equality. Veil’s profound dedication to preserving the memory of the Holocaust underscores the importance of collective remembrance and justice. Her legacy is a living testament to the positive change achievable through unwavering dedication and a steadfast belief in a better tomorrow.



  1. Rabbi Shipell, affiliated with Lockdown University, conducts a weekly seminar delving into the Torah portion of the week on the Lockdown University platform. For subscription inquiries, please contact the Lockdown University Staff at