Sara Eyal dedicated her entire life to taking classified photos for Israel’s intelligence agencies, which nobody besides the operatives in archive rooms has ever seen. Now, years after Eyal’s death, dozens of never-before-seen photographs from her personal collection are set to go on display in a special exhibition in Jerusalem.
The exhibition, titled “Emerging from the shadows,” will showcase the images that captured the landscapes and people of Israel back when the country was only in its infancy, in the 1950s and 60s.
The photographs, stored for many years in boxes at the woman’s family home in Tel Aviv, have a hint of her unique clandestine style - which made her such a successful espionage photographer- despite being taken for personal collection.
Eyal led a unique life. The former Mossad agent was born in 1915 in Slovakia and fled to pre-state Palestine 1940 following an arranged marriage to a man called Zvi Salter. Although the move saved her from the horrors of the Holocaust, her entire family perished in the Nazi genocide.
The marriage, however, did not last long and she was left completely alone with a young child.
The terrible situation did not break the woman’s spirit and instead she began studying photography and in 1952 began working for the intelligence services. As part of her work in the Mossad, Eyal lived in Paris for six years, from 1953 to 1959, where she met one of her good friends Dr. Meir Rosenne - who shaped the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.
Some years later, Eyal introduced her daughter to Rosenne. The two began a romantic relationship and subsequently got married. It remains unclear whether the two ever found out the true nature of Eyal's work.
Eyal then returned to Israel and continued her work for Mossad until the age of 72, while never stopping to expand her own personal collection - which to the dismay of many - she never publicized.
Some of the gems from the collection include a snap of the central bus station in Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem’s Old City and bikini clad tourists on Tel Aviv beaches.
Eyal died in 2004 at the age of 89. She never remarried.
The full extent of Eyal extraordinary work in the Mossad might never be revealed so this unique exhibition gives Israelis a little glimpse of the world of the secret service through the lens of one of its most prolific agents.
The exhibition, curated by Amichai Chasson, will run until June 11, 2020 at Beit Avi Chai, a cultural center in Jerusalem.