Rumors surrounding Rabbi Shlomo Aviner's ties to Mossad have been circulating for years, and on Thursday he admitted for the first time that he was sent by the Israeli intelligence agency to Iran, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
In an interview with religious website "Kippah," the rabbi from Beit-El recounted the recruitment process: "Following the (Islamic) revolution of 1979, I received a phone call. 'Shlomo, we need you.'" The following day Aviner was sent to Iran with a French passport.
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The rabbi said he was asked to relay a list from Israel to Iran, but he refused to offer any other details. The cover story was that Aviner was visiting Iran as a representative of the French rabbinate to provide Iranian Jews with matzos for Passover.
"I was terrified and prayed that I wouldn't be checked too much at the passport desk, but they let me pass without asking too many questions," Aviner told the website.
Asked how he managed to relay messages from Iran to Israel, the rabbi said, "My aunt ran an international chandelier business in France and she exported (chandeliers) to many countries, including Iran. I used public phones to place calls, pretending to be a client, and used code words to relay the information to her."
Aviner returned to Israel and was recruited for another mission after Passover. The rabbi said he cut short the second mission after noticing he was being followed.