The new novel Married to the Mossad tells the story of Sally, an Israeli living in London, who sees her life change dramatically when she learns that her husband’s lowly embassy job is just a cover — and that he’s actually an agent for the Mossad. When a new mission forces him to go undercover in a Muslim nation, Sally insists on joining him, and is soon thrust into a dangerous world of intrigue.
Author Shalva Hessel didn’t just dream up this plot — she lived it. Just like her protagonist, Hessel accompanied her husband on secret missions for the Mossad, assuming an undercover identity in a Muslim country, facing dangers and living a lie — all for the good of her country.
Below is an excerpt from Married to the Mossad.
She stood with her back to the door and her hands spread out to the sides. “You’re not leaving here.”
“Sally,” he said in a calm voice, charged with hidden tension. “Let me leave.”
“Only after you tell me where you disappear to at night.”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Why, Jerry? Who won’t let you?”
“I can’t say that either.”
“You’re playing with me!” Sally’s voice rose to a shout. “If you want to meet other women just say so.”
“It’s not other women,” Jerry said. “It really isn’t.”
They’d been married for a year, and despite her young age, life experience had equipped her with sharp senses. She could tell a fake if she saw one. “What’s going on with you? Why can’t you explain?”
Jerry’s voice was steady and cool. “Give me an hour. I’ll leave and return with someone who’ll explain.”
She knew that no pressure could force him to tell, but still she insisted.
“Why can’t you explain?”
“He’ll explain that too.”
Sally’s eyes were full of rage. “I want to come with you to where he is. Let him explain it there.”
“You can’t,” Jerry explained patiently. “You can’t even know where it is.”
“You’re speaking like a character out cheap suspense novel,” Sally shouted.
A faint smile crossed Jerry’s face. “Do I get an hour?”
Sally could never withstand his smile, and gave up. “One hour,” she succumbed, and moved away from the door. “But not a minute longer!”
Anger and fear made her blood boil. For months, she had been spending her evenings on the couch, purchased on Petticoat Lane with Jerry’s holiday bonus. It was the sole valuable item in their apartment. She had read dozens of books and watched countless TV series, waiting for him to return. Every time she asked him where he’d gone, it would be an urgent meeting at work, seeing a friend, or a lecture at the London School of Economics.
As time passed, his explanations became less convincing and Sally grew more suspicious. She felt that since they had arrived in London, her husband’s life was being run by something unknown and more significant than she; that she was losing control over their fate.
Sally couldn’t stand losing control. In every situation, she was always the leader and the center of attention. She was raised in a National-Religious family of citron farmers in Moshav Hibbat Zion, where she was considered a free spirit. Opinionated and principled, she was a tomboy who enjoyed the company of boys and was always game for a prank. Even at the Technion, where she was the only female computer software programming student, she remained independent and was unafraid to express her opinion at every opportunity. That’s where she met Jerry, and the moment she laid eyes on him, she knew he’d be hers.
Following a short courtship, her beauty and wit worked their charms and they became lovers. Jerry was attracted to her joie de vivre, which complemented his solemnness, and she loved his serious and fastidious nature. She had wholeheartedly hoped that they could wed, but Jerry kept announcing that marriage was out of the question.
“We have no money, I have no interest in children at this point in my life, and besides, I’ll never marry someone who hasn’t served in the army.” Regardless, when he told her he was accepted to LSE, one of the leading economics schools in the world, she knew she would follow him. Her parents objected, of course, but could do nothing to oppose the will of their stubborn daughter ,who informed them that she was traveling to get married.
She landed in London with a thousand pounds and Jerry’s address at the student residence. The following day, he joined her to rent a flat. They found a room with a common kitchen in an old apartment building, and ate a greasy and unappetizing meal at the takeaway shop across the street. The following day, Sally applied to three software engineering schools whose addresses Jerry had found. The tuition of all three was beyond her means. The sum she brought with her from Israel was lower than the tuition and sufficed, at most, for two months of rent, if she ate frugally.
Winter was around the corner, with its high heating costs. Sally met with Jerry every evening and tried to remain optimistic and not worry him, but she was growing increasingly desperate. Her parents sent her five hundred pounds for her birthday, which extended her grace time in London by an extra month. Now, four months separated her from the day when she would have to admit defeat and call home, requesting that her parents pay for the return ticket. Jerry tried to help as best he could, but was also making a pittance working in Israeli advocacy and was barely making ends meet. Their life together now had an expiration date, and their love grew desperate.
One day, Jerry turned up at her apartment with an advertisement he had ripped from the notice board at his residence: “The Pierre Marin Fund offers scholarships to students who pass its tests. Scholarships include school tuition and a stipend.” The following day, Sally arrived at the fund’s offices, filled out the forms, and was told she must take a test.
She tried to inquire about the subject of the test, its length, and the mark required for the scholarship, but to no avail.
A week later, she was invited back to the fund’s office. In a small room, seated next to three others, she answered questions related to Judaism.
She counted her blessings for being exposed at home to religious law and love of Israel, and felt grateful to her family, especially her father and grandfather — a well-known and admired rabbi — for making themselves available to her questions on religious matters. Leaving the room, she knew she had successfully passed the test.
And so it was. Two weeks later, her bank account was credited with a sum of money that sufficed for tuition and living expenses for a month. Additional sums, she was promised in a letter received by mail, would arrive every month until she completed her studies.
Letter in hand, she returned to the fund’s offices.
“Is something wrong?” asked the astonished secretary.
“I came to thank Pierre Marin personally for his help.”
“That’s impossible,” said the secretary.
“Why? Doesn’t he exist?”
“Oh, he exists all right.” She laughed. “He’s a Jewish millionaire who lives in Switzerland. You can leave a letter here, but there’s no chance he’ll answer you.”
Sally jotted down a few warm sentences of thanks on a piece of paper, inserted it into an envelope, and handed it to the secretary. When she stepped out onto the street, she felt the world smiling at her. The mysterious Pierre Marin had gotten her life back on track.Shalva Hessel (http://www.shalvahessel.com), author of “Married to the Mossad,” was raised on Moshav Hibat-Zion in central Israel. She is a software engineer and has managed information systems for companies around the world. When her husband, who served in a senior role in the Mossad, left on secret missions, she joined him as part of his cover. Today she lives in Tel Aviv and is involved in charitable ventures, as well as business management.