American Jews Fund $2.2 Million Gym for Israel's Mossad

Israel's spy agency has been authorized to receive a donation from Friends of the IDF. But Mossad members aren't young draftees, they're well-paid professionals.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The Mossad's annual budget is in the billions of shekels, but the spy agency apparently saw nothing wrong this year with seeking donations from Diaspora Jews. To be able to train in a modern gym, Israel’s spies have turned to American Jewry.

Two weeks ago, almost in secret, the government authorized the Mossad to receive a contribution from an overseas donor. Instead of issuing a press release, the Cabinet Secretariat posted a laconic update in the “cabinet decisions” section deep inside the Prime Minister’s Office's website.

“The government has decided to authorize the Israel Secret Intelligence Service, the Mossad, to receive a donation of NIS 8 million ($2.2 million) from the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces for funding both the construction of a recreation complex that will include a gym and the purchase of equipment for the gym,” the government said.

In an article in Haaretz last week, Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn noted how the combined budget of the Mossad and Shin Bet security service has climbed 26 percent during Benjamin Netanyahu's premiership. According to the Finance Ministry, the two agencies' combined budgets topped NIS 6 billion in 2012.

While most of the Mossad’s budget is spent on intelligence-gathering against Iran’s nuclear program or on secret operations against terrorists around the world, it's safe to assume that plenty of money pays salaries and funds recreation and other activities for the agency’s employees.

Each year Friends of the IDF takes in hundreds of millions of dollars from American Jews on behalf of Israeli soldiers. At its last gala dinner in New York, the organization took in $27 million in one evening. The money is used for recreation and the general welfare of IDF soldiers, most of them young conscripts.

It's surprising that an agency like the Mossad needs to seek funds from American Jews. Although the Mossad’s researchers, spies and other employees do arduous and sometimes extremely dangerous work for Israel's national security, they're not military draftees. They're working for the Mossad of their own free will, and they receive handsome salaries.

Another question is why a “recreation complex” including a gym, no matter how state-of-the-art, has to cost NIS 8 million. For comparison’s sake, at a Friends of the IDF event in November 2010, donations were collected to build a clubhouse and gym for the Caracal infantry battalion at an estimated cost of only $208,000.

Mossad operatives who allegedly assassinated Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010, dressed in tennis garb.Credit: Courtesy Ch. 2
Illustration: Working out at a gym in central Israel.Credit: Haaretz Archive / Eyal Warshavsky

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