Wednesday Morning Study Group
Wednesday Mornings, 11 am – 12 pm*
Topic: Israel History
Current Book: Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel – Matti Friedman
“Wondrous . . . Compelling . . . Piercing.” —The New York Times Book Review
Award-winning writer Matti Friedman’s tale of Israel’s first spies has all the tropes of an espionage novel, including duplicity, betrayal, disguise, clandestine meetings, the bluff, and the double bluff—but it’s all true.
Journalist and award-winning author Matti Friedman’s tale of Israel’s first spies reads like an espionage novel–but it’s all true. The four agents at the center of this story were part of a ragtag unit known as the Arab Section, conceived during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders in Palestine. Intended to gather intelligence and carry out sabotage operations, the unit consisted of Jews who were native to the Arab world and could thus easily assume Arab identities.
In 1948, with Israel’s existence hanging in the balance, these men went undercover in Beirut, where they spent the next two years operating out of a newsstand, collecting intelligence and sending messages back to Israel via a radio whose antenna was disguised as a clothesline. Of the dozen spies in the Arab Section at the war’s outbreak, five were caught and executed. But in the end, the Arab Section would emerge as the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel’s vaunted intelligence agency.
Spies of No Country is about the slippery identities of these young spies, but it’s also about the complicated identity of Israel, a country that presents itself as Western but in fact has more citizens with Middle Eastern roots and traditions, like the spies of this narrative. Meticulously researched and masterfully told, Spies of No Country is an eye-opening look at the paradoxes of the Middle East.
About the Author
Matti Friedman’s work as a reporter has taken him from Lebanon to Morocco, Cairo, Moscow and Washington, D.C., and to conflicts in Israel and the Caucasus. He has been a correspondent for the Associated Press, and his writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Tablet Magazine, and elsewhere. He grew up in Toronto and lives in Jerusalem.
“The Aleppo Codex,” his first book (Algonquin, 2012) won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize and the ALA’s Sophie Brody Medal, among other honors. His second book, “Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story” (Algonquin, May 2016) won starred reviews in Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and was compared by the New York Times to Tim O’Brien’s masterpiece “The Things They Carried.”
Get the Book
Spies of No Country is available at Amazon.com, in hardcover, paperback, Kindle or Audible.com editions.
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