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The Master Spy who collected dolls and matchboxes

23/07/2009

Former Head of Mossad, Meir Amit, has died. I interviewed him back in 1997 for the six-part BBC TV series The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs. He later invited me to his home and office in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, to chat about the Arab-Israeli conflict and he even allowed me to go over some of his files to use in the companion book of the BBC series, which I wrote with the Egyptian Jihan el-Tahri.

Amit’s hobby was to collect items; dolls from different countries, for instance. I also remember how after one of our conversations he took me aside and showed me a very large jar made of glass. Inside I could see hundreds of small and large matchboxes from all over the world. He explained how during his extensive travels as head of Mossad he would buy matchboxes to remind him where he had been. I found it quite amusing: the master spy of Israel collecting dolls and matchboxes!

I have written his obituary for the Daily Telegraph – since 1994 I have been the Telegraph’s obituaries writer covering Israel and the Jewish world – and those of you interested in reading it could click on the following link.