The rays of dusk lit up the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery. A whole city adjacent to Tel Aviv whose inhabitants used to live in the neighboring metropolis now lie deceased in the same crowded surroundings, under tombstones stretching to the horizon. Life teaches us that not all people are good and honest, but their tombstones are engraved with words describing the best and most worthy traits in those who are buried under them.
Among the many tombstones are twin pillars standing next to each other, white and upright. Buried alongside one another are Moshe (Kukla) and his wife, Leah. They died 17 years and a month apart. Cancer killed him, and then took her too last year.
We gathered earlier this month to hold the first joint memorial ceremony for them. A large crowd came, surprisingly, because they are both no longer with us.
Moshe Levin was born in Tel Aviv, and the nickname he was given in his youth, Kukla, stuck for the rest of his life. He studied at the Kadoorie Agricultural High School and served in the Paratroopers. He immediately emerged as a brave soldier, and became a charismatic and daring officer who was one of the founders of the IDF General Staff. Soon after his discharge, he joined the Mossad, and rose to the rank of head of operations. He wasn’t really interested in heading the organization, intelligence preparedness was not his specialty; he was a field man.
Kukla was large and strong, a nonconformist who was not intimidated by anyone, and was considered very tough, both by those under his command and by his commanders.
He took part in countless activities throughout the world, providing valuable intelligence, and according to sources in the organization, he was behind the disappearance of certain people who deserved to disappear.
A Mossad psychologist termed him, after he passed his acceptance tests, a “lone wolf,” while a well-known woman who met Kukele by coincidence looked at him and said, “You must be a criminal.”
“It’s good that they respect us,” Kukla once told the head of the organization, referring to the Mossad fighters under their command, “but it wouldn’t hurt them to be a bit afraid.”
And they were more than a bit afraid. He backed them, and they trusted him, but he came on strong in the beginning.
He was not a big talker, but he was a big eater, and those who participated with him on secret operations would testify to the huge amounts he consumed during his trips.
When he came to our home, Kukla had no trouble demolishing a plate full of lamb chops, and he did it more than once. He did not have many friends, and we were fortunate to be among them.
Despite his usual roughness, with us he was soft and full of humor. Most of his acquaintances would probably have a hard time believing this, because they never encountered these qualities in him.
Today, Kukla lives on only in the memories of those who got to love him and know him. The day will come in which he will appear only on the yellowed pages of classified folders in archives that will be sealed for many more years.
Kukla saw Leah, his future wife, for the first time as she was about to have a baby. She was beautiful and in an unsuccessful marriage.
“I shall return,” he told her, and two days after the birth, he did in fact return. After that, they were inseparable, until he died. She was an interior designer, a highly opinionated and pretty woman until the day she died.
She waited with devotion for him during his many trips abroad, and she knew they weren’t exactly organized tours that he was going on, and that he was putting his life in danger.
But she was quiet and restrained. With the same restraint and nobility, she fought cancer. During the years she was left alone, our appreciation of her grew even more. She worked and studied and traveled the world.
When she hosted mutual friends, his presence was felt, not in an imposing way but rather a feeling that he had been there and now he was gone. Indeed, all of us, whoever has been and whoever will be, come into the world and take on a role, then return behind the scenes, and who knows what happens there? Do we reappear on the stage, and when?
Parrots flew above the cemetery, squawking loudly and drowning out the voices of the rabbi and the others delivering eulogies at the memorial service. We dispersed in silence.
The writer, the son of Ariel Sharon, is the author of Sharon: The Life of a Leader.