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Here's What Ziva's Role Within Mossad Really Was On NCIS

"NCIS" is a series with no shortage of investigative badasses, but easily one of the most popular was the mysterious Ziva David, as portrayed by Cote de Pablo. A regular on "NCIS" from the show's third to tenth seasons, we slowly learned that the Ziva was not only a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces but had also served as a member of Mossad, Israel's renowned intelligence service. Nevertheless, details about Ziva's past before she joined Leroy Gibbs' team of naval forensic detectives was sketchy, and the character herself was reluctant to share them. 

That she served in the military was never in question (most Israeli citizens over 18 are required to serve in the army), but as the series progressed, we did learn exactly what she did during her time with Mossad, and it was far more than anyone on her team could have suspected. The story ties in closely with Ziva's past and is framed by her complicated relationship with the director of Mossad: her father.

The elite of the elite

After joining the IDF, Ziva transferred to Mossad as soon as she possibly could, where her father Eli was serving as deputy director. Her father had been distant with her but had raised her with rigorous training in hand-to-hand combat and espionage, as well as survival training one could charitably describe as brutal. One exercise had Eli blindfolding Ziva and her sister, leaving them in the woods, and telling them to find their way back home. Such training laid the groundwork for her time with Mossad, and Ziva honed her skills as a member of this elite division.

Developing a proven track record as a skilled Mossad operative, Ziva was invited to join Kidon, a shadowy organization contained within the already secretive Mossad. Kidon, which, roughly translated, can mean either "bayonet" or "the tip of the spear," is purportedly tasked with assassinating Israel's enemies. Referred to as "the Mossad within the Mossad," Kidon accepts only the most elite operatives to join their ranks. The organization would be first mentioned on "NCIS" in the episode "Legend: Part Two," in which the team suspects a visiting Mossad agent to be a Kidon operative. Kidon would appear again in the sixth-season finale "Aliyah," where Ziva's boyfriend Mark Rivkin is stated to have been a Kidon member, and Ziva's membership is revealed. 

The shadows of the past

Ziva's time with Mossad would loom like a shadow over her tenure as a member of Gibbs' NCIS team: She would join in the wake of her half-brother Ari, a fellow Mossad operative, having become a double agent and murdering Special Agent Kate Todd, a member of Gibbs' team. Both had been trained by their father and had become Mossad agents, but Ari had become embittered toward Eli and became part of the very terrorist organization he'd been sent to infiltrate. Catching Gibbs unaware, Ari confessed to the murder and to being involved in terrorism. Ziva, having been trying to help her brother escape what she had considered false charges by Gibbs, comes to Gibbs' rescue and kills Ari upon learning the truth. This act would haunt her for the rest of the series, and it would be some time before Gibbs and the rest of the team would come to trust her.

Ziva David would go on to become one of the series' most beloved characters and a trusted member of the investigative team, with the secrets of her mysterious past slowly being revealed after her introduction in the series' third season. With the revelation of her past in both Mossad and Kidon, it's easy to see why she's the deadliest protagonist "NCIS" has ever seen.