The Talmud says: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA. From the very beginning of its statehood in 1948, protecting the nation from harm has been the responsibility of its intelligence community and armed services, and there is one weapon in their vast arsenal that they have relied upon to thwart the most serious threats: Targeted assassinations have been used countless times, on enemies large and small, sometimes in response to attacks against the Israeli people and sometimes preemptively.
In this pause-resisting, eye-opening audiobook, journalist and military analyst Ronen Bergman – praised by David Remnick as “arguably [Israel’s] best investigative reporter” – offers a riveting inside account of the targeted killing programs: their successes, their failures, and the moral and political price exacted on the men and women who approved and carried out the missions.
Bergman has gained the exceedingly rare cooperation of many current and former members of the Israeli government, including Prime Ministers Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as high-level figures in the country’s military and intelligence services: the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), the Mossad (the world’s most feared intelligence agency), Caesarea (a “Mossad within the Mossad” that carries out attacks on the highest-value targets), and the Shin Bet (an internal security service that implemented the largest targeted assassination campaign ever, in order to stop what had once appeared to be unstoppable: suicide terrorism).
Including never-before-reported, behind-the-curtain accounts of key operations, and based on hundreds of on-the-record interviews and thousands of files to which Bergman has gotten exclusive access over his decades of reporting, Rise and Kill First brings us deep into the heart of Israel’s most secret activities. Bergman traces, from statehood to the present, the gripping events and thorny ethical questions underlying Israel’s targeted killing campaign, which has shaped the Israeli nation, the Middle East, and the entire world.
What is most amazing to me is that, at 26 hours, this never failed to keep my attention. Ronen Bergman has pulled together a massive amount of documented information about the Mossad and presented in such a way that it felt neither tedious or pedantic.
Other than a book about the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and the resulting operation Wrath of God/Bayonet, my knowledge of the history of the State of Israel is fairly minimal. I appreciated that Bergman combines personal, professional, regional, and world events in a manner that gives a broader understanding of Israel’s founding and how its missions were initiated. He does not gloss over technical, procedural, or moral failures and provides insight into the real human cost to the many sides of Israel’s operations. Covering over 60 years of historical perspective, few people and no countries or political/ideological movements are left untarnished.
I did not finish listening feeling that there was an agenda other than to provide the reader (or listener in my case) with a more comprehensive view of what has been, up to 2010, classified or the “public version” was purposefully lacking in information. Bergman does not provide any prescriptives, and in many ways the story is not over.
Rob Shapiro does a fantastic job. He’s one of few narrators that could handle such an informationally dense yet emotionally wrought text with such skill. Shapiro’s delivery of names, cities, and regional or operational colloquialism seemed effortless. Combined with Bergman’s composition – this is an engaging listen.
About the author:
Dr. Ronen Bergman is the Senior Correspondent for Military and Intelligence Affairs for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest circulated daily newspaper, and a Contributing Writer for The New York Times, writing extensively on Middle Eastern security, military and intelligence affairs. He has also published in Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Der Spiegel and other major media outlets.
Writing extensively on intelligence, national security, terrorism and nuclear affairs, he is internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in his field.
You can connect with Ronen Bergman here:
About the narrator:
Rob Shapiro is a voice actor, narrator, songwriter and performer living in Los Angeles, but he’s really everywhere.
You can connect with Rob Shapiro here:
My Favorite Quotes
This book is thus about as far as possible from an authorized history of Israeli intelligence. – Rise and Kill First by @ronenbergman #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxe #MossadTweet
Is it legitimate, both ethically and judicially, for a country to employ the gravest of all crimes in any code of ethics or law—the premeditated taking of a human life—in order to protect its own citizens? – Rise and Kill First by @ronenbergman #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxe #MossadTweet
Combining and synchronizing both systems—intelligence and operations—was a major breakthrough. – Rise and Kill First by @ronenbergman #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxe #MossadTweet
Who is the enemy? How can he be identified? When, if at all, does he cease being the enemy? – Rise and Kill First by @ronenbergman #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxe #MossadTweet
In other words, the intention was simply to kill someone—anyone. – Rise and Kill First by @ronenbergman #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxe #MossadTweet
Wars needed a vote in the cabinet, but prime ministers could simply order an operation. – Rise and Kill First by @ronenbergman #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxe #MossadTweet