President Reuven Rivlin and Mossad Head Yossi Cohen honored legendary Mossad agent Avraham Barzilai Wednesday at the President's Residence and awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Prize.
Because of health problems, Barzilai – who is 90 – could not make it to the traditional ceremony held December 29 at the President's Residence, in which Mossad employees received certificates of excellence. Therefore, a smaller-scale ceremony was held just for him.
Barzilai has been serving the nation's security for over 60 years. He was recruited to the Mossad in 1955 and served as a warrior on numerous missions, including Mossad operations that secretly brought about 80,000 Jews to Israel from Arab countries.
He officially retired in 1995, but never really quit. Since retiring, he has volunteered in the organization in various capacities. In the last few years, Barzilai has been instructing young recruits to the Mossad and sharing his wisdom and experience with them.
After the president thanked him, Barzilai said: "You can probably imagine how much this occasion moves me and my family. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the great honor you bestowed upon me today. It is a duty and a right to mention my wife's extraordinary contribution throughout the years of my service. We celebrated 61 years of marriage this year – one year more than my years of service in the Mossad. Throughout the service she held up the homefront, she raised our daughters wonderfully, on her own. Quite a few times she was with me on missions. Mr. President – there is not enough time to tell about my wife's part, and I feel that this honor is both of ours and she shares it with me equally."
The President responded by saying, with a smile, that he will ask the Mossad for permission to grant Barzilai's wife a certificates of excellence.
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said that he knows Barzilai since he was a child and "one could say he was my teacher and mentor."