Zygier said to have told friend when he joined the Mossad

Recounting conversation in a bar, source also says deceased agent was a ‘proud Zionist’ who wouldn’t betray the country

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Ben Zygier in IDF uniform (YouTube screenshot)
Ben Zygier in IDF uniform (YouTube screenshot)

Ben Zygier, the Australian-Israeli man outed as the mysterious Prisoner X, reportedly told one of his friends that he had been recruited to the Mossad.

One of Zygier’s Australian friends told Haaretz that he met Zygier at a Tel Aviv bar roughly 10 years ago, and that Zygier spilled the beans about joining Israel’s spy agency.

“He told me he’d just been recruited,” the paper quoted the anonymous source as saying. “I was in shock. It’s the sort of thing people usually joke about, but I had no reason to doubt him at all.”

On Tuesday, an Australian television report named Zygier as a mysterious prisoner who had killed himself in prison in 2010, but whose case had been kept under wraps by the state censor. Subsequent reports claimed Zygier was involved in Israel’s alleged killing of a Hamas operative in Dubai and said Zygier had been jailed after nearly sharing state secrets with either Australian officials, the media, or officials in Dubai, according to differing foreign reports.

The source told Haaretz that Zygier did not elaborate, but that he later found out that he had told others about his secret-service engagement. The source added that he saw Zygier as a “proud Zionist” who wouldn’t betray the country.

Another former colleague, writing in the Australian Financial Review, recounted that Zygier “recounted his famous story of taking a bullet in the posterior during his military service in Israel, when he served shortly before joining our group of friends” in 2001.

“He described in vivid detail patrolling the front line and backtracking across war-torn countryside while gunfire peppered the ground,” Patrick Durkin wrote.

“Most of us remember him as a serious young man who was largely aloof from the rest of our tight-knit group,” Durkin added.

Zygier’s family and friends have largely been tight-lipped about the suspected spy. Danny Burrows, one of Zygier’s close friends, told Haaretz that “the silence is because people don’t know. I don’t know anything. I don’t want to know anything.

“A family that’s already suffered is suffering another tragedy. I lost a very good friend and my friend’s family lost a son,” said Burrows, who knew Zygier from a year abroad in Israel nearly 20 years ago.

On Wednesday, family friend Harry Greener told Australian television that there were rumors about Zygier being involved in Israel’s spy agency.

“We didn’t know anything about what happened to him, except that there were whispers about the Mossad and there were whispers about him being in detention and something went horribly wrong,” Greener said. “I think it was a very personal thing where Ben did something and it wasn’t well received by his superiors and he went to jail for it. Unfortunately he didn’t come out alive.”

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