May 25: Eli Cohen's deeds

Just a few of the things Motsley failed to mention: Cohen was tortured after his arrest, and that he fooled Assad for years.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eli Cohen's deeds Sir, - In "Syria built over Eli Cohen's grave" (May 15), Monjer Motsley, a former Syrian bureau chief, claimed that Syria erected buildings and a park in the area in Damascus where Eli Cohen, of blessed memory, is said to be buried. This may or may not be true. But other claims made by Motsley were total nonsense, and should not have gone unanswered. Motsley said Cohen "expressed remorse for his acts" to his Syrian captors; that then Syrian president Hafez Assad was suspicious of Cohen and unconvinced regarding his cover story; and, absurdly, that Cohen "was unsuccessful at passing valuable information to his Mossad contacts." Just a few of the things Motsley failed to mention: Cohen was tortured after his arrest, but revealed no information of value to the Syrians, several of whom later acknowledged his courage and fortitude; Cohen fooled Assad for years, dating from their time together in Argentina; Assad had considered appointing Cohen as his deputy defense minister; information Cohen passed to Israeli intelligence led to the destruction of Syrian equipment being used in an attempt to divert Jordan River waters away from Israel; the famous eucalyptus trees Cohen persuaded the Syrians to plant enabled Israel, during the Six Day War, to pinpoint and destroy Syrian fortifications and conquer the strategic Golan Heights within 48 hours. BRUCE WARSHAVSKY Beit Shemesh Crossroads Sir, - I commend Larry Derfner for "Lost Generation" (UpFront, May 10), which no doubt has heightened public awareness regarding a traditionally overlooked segment of Israeli society: at-risk youth. I also applaud his mention of Elem, one organization reaching out to street kids. However, I was surprised that he should cite Elem as "the main private organization" in Jerusalem to help this population. In fact, many worthy groups reach out to street kids. One is the Crossroads Center, located directly across from Kikar Zion, whose staff works alongside, and often in tandem with, Elem representatives. Crossroads targets a specific subset of this population: English-speaking teens - tourists and students abroad, and Israeli citizens - who comprise a growing and troubled population. While Elem workers remain in Zion Square throughout the night, Crossroads Center social workers and volunteers operate out of Crack Square, which Derfner presents as a hub of street life. Rather than wait for teens to approach them, Crossroads staff members circulate throughout downtown three to four nights each week, actively seeking out teens in bars and alleys. They provide immediate assistance when necessary and inform youth of the long-term assistance Crossroads has to offer. As a result of our at-night, on-the-streets action, Anglo youth regularly leave the streets to come to the Crossroads Center. There - at rates of 15-60 per day, 150-200 per week, and over 700 per year - they have access to a variety of tools and services with which they can turn their lives around. Crossroads, Elem and many other organizations are working to strengthen and empower teens on the streets. All deserve recognition. ZAHAVA BLUMENTHAL Development Officer The Crossroads Jerusalem