Amos Manor, who from 1953 to 1963 served as head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) died Sunday at age 89. The Romanian-born Manor arrived in Israel in 1949 and joined the Shin Bet a month after landing in the country.
Language was not a problem. He spoke Hebrew fluently, and had already been engaged in secret service work prior to setting foot in the Jewish homeland. In 1947, he began working for the Romanian branch of the Mossad's illegal immigrants' operations, Aliya Bet. His mission, like that of other Mossad agents in Europe, was to bypass the British Mandate authorities and ship Jews into Palestine.
Manor was fluent in five languages. Besides Hebrew and his native Romanian, he also spoke English, French and Hungarian.
Manor quickly moved up through the ranks of the Shin Bet.
Famous cases in which he was involved included the interrogation of Soviet spy Ze'ev Avni, who had served as an Israel economic attache in Brussels, Athens and Bulgaria. Avni broke under Manor's questioning and was duly charged and sentenced.
Another case in which Manor was active was the disclosure of a secret speech delivered by Nikita Kruschev to the 20th Party Congress. A copy of the speech was obtained by Polish-Jewish journalist Victor Grayevsky, who passed it on to the Shin Bet agent in Warsaw, who in turn passed it on to Manor, who transmitted it to Washington, from where it found its way to The New York Times.
Manor's best-known case in Israel might have been the widely publicized kidnapping of Yossele Schumacher, who was spirited out of Jerusalem to New York. The perpetrator was Israel's most famous convert - Ruth Ben-David, who later married Rabbi Amram Blau, head of the Neturei Karta movement.
Initially, Manor made no headway with Ben-David, but then he got hold of her son Uriel and told him bluntly that he had to help the Shin Bet because no one could persuade his mother to talk. "If you tell us everything you know," pledged Manor, "we promise that no legal action will be taken against you or your mother. We understand what motivated you."
Uriel Ben-David felt that Manor could be trusted and told him everything he knew.
Manor, who retired from the secret service in 1963 to go into business, continued to mix socially with some of his former colleagues, and in the privacy of their homes, they reminisced about their escapades. But much of what they did remains classified. Manor will take more secrets with him to the grave than he ever revealed.