File:Yolande Harmer an unsung heroine.jpg

Yolande Harmer

Yolande Harmer (full name: Gabbai de-Botton) (1913–1959) (Hebrew name Yolande Har-Mor) ( Template:Lang-he) maiden name ) was an Israeli intelligence officer who operated in Egypt in 1948. She was recruited due to her connections in elite and royal circles,[1] she has been described as "Israel's Mata Hari".[2][3][4] A town square in Jerusalem, 'Yolande Harmer Square', is named after her.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Yolande Gabai (later Harmer and Har-Mor) was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to a Turkish-Jewish mother. She was married three times, the first at the age of 17. Her first husband was called Jacques de Botton. She divorced him after a few years of marriage - having had a son with him, Gilbert de Botton.[2][3]

Espionage career[edit | edit source]

Harmer was recruited by Moshe Sharett, secretary of the Jewish Agency political department, when he visited Egypt in 1945 or 1946. They met at a cocktail party.[2][3] At the time Harmer was working as a journalist and accepted in the highest circles of Egypt society.[3] She was thus able to gather intelligence in King Farouk's court in Cairo.[5] She made many other important contacts including senior editors of Al-Ahram, the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper,[2] Tak ed-Din as-Sulh, the chief assistant of Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam, and Mahmoud Mahlouf, son of the Grand Mufti of Cairo.[3]

When the Swedish ambassador to Egypt, Widar Bagge, fell in love with her, she swayed him to sympathize with the Zionist struggle for self-determination and the freedom of the Jewish people. Eli Peleg, a Yishuv emissary in Cairo, reported Harmer's success with Bagge: "Several months ago he was indifferent to our cause, but today he is an enthusiastic Zionist."[3]

Harmer provided the Yishuv with important strategic information, including the texts of resolutions adopted by the Arab League in 1947 and 1948 declaring that they "will sacrifice all the political and economic interest of the Arab world in order to save Arab Palestine."[6] She also uncovered Arab military plans for the end of the British Mandate for Palestine.[2]By penetrating the US Embassy, she was able to supply information on the number of Tunisian and Algerian troops fighting the Arabs in Palestine.[3]

File:Yolande H.JPG

Memorial plaque in Jerusalem

However, delivering the information she gathered was problematic: She had a radio transmitter, but no-one to operate it for her. She sent the information using mail services via Europe or the United States, but precious time was often lost.[3] During her work in Egypt she often risked not only her own life, but the life of her son.[7]

In July 1948, Harmer was arrested. In August, after falling ill in jail, she was released and deported. She went to Paris where she worked for the Middle East Department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, becoming a key figure in that department by 1949. During her work in Paris she maintained her Egyptian contacts, continuing to provide Israel with valuable information.[3]In 1950 she worked in Madrid.

Harmer died in 1959.[2][3]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Teddy Kollek: the man, his times and Jerusalem Gefen, 25 Aug 2008, page 21
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Ephraim Kahana (May 16, 2009). Historical dictionary of Israeli intelligence By Ephraim Kahana. The Scarecrow Press, Inc.. p. 110,111. ISBN 978-0-8108-5953-1. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Ian Black and Benny Morris (2007). Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services. Grove Press. pp. 61–64. ISBN 978-0-8021-3286-4.,+%27We+have+a+diplomat&source=bl&ots=nnbddn_DEe&sig=-nK-Kw6k5O-b8KEuR7fukB_7z98&hl=en&ei=r-hpTM6tNI30swPRqNXeBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Peleg%20told%20Shertok%2C%20%27We%20have%20a%20diplomat&f=false. 
  4. Teddy Kollek, Amos Kollek (1978). For Jerusalem. Random House. p. 57. 
  5. Ian Black and Benny Morris (2007). Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services. Grove Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-8021-3286-4. 
  6. Joseph Heller (April 25, 2003). The birth of Israel, 1945-1949: Ben-Gurion and his critics. University Press of Florida. pp. 91–92. ISBN 978-0-8021-3286-4. 
  7. "Yolande an Unsung Heroine". 

cs:Jolande Harmerová he:יולנדה הארמר

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