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Source: Netflix

The Real Story Behind 'The Spy's' Eli Cohen Is Almost Too Insane to Believe

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The six-episode miniseries, The Spy, premiered today on Netflix. In it, Sacha Baron Cohen plays Eli Cohen, an Israeli secret agent who pretends to be a rich Arab in order to infiltrate the Syrian government. There's a lot of buzz around the show — for one, Sacha completely abandons his goofiness for a serious and dramatic role, and does an incredible job at it. And second, viewers are intruiged by the very true story about Eli Cohen. The series shows Eli go from office clerk to Mossad spy who reaches the highest Syrian officials and extracts top-secret information that helps the Israeli government try to take the Syrian regime down. Did it all really happen? Yes.

Who is Eli Cohen, and what's his real story?

Eliyahu Cohen was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1924. As a young man, he tried joining the Egyptian Army so he could avoid paying a fee that all Egyptian jews had to pay at the time. He was rejected because the army questioned his loyalty to Egypt. Later on, he helped smuggle Egyptian Jews over to Israel. Eli was forced to leave Egypt in 1956, and emigrated to Israel. He wanted to join the country's military intelligence services, but was denied — this forced him to lead a "normal" life, which bored him. However, in 1960, due to issues with the Syrian border, Cohen was eventually hired by Israeli intelligence and sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina to make friends with the Syrian expat community. He was given an alias: Kamal Amin Thabet.