Title: Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel
Author: Matti Friedman
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: March 5, 2019 (Tomorrow!)
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "The four spies 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 and assassinations, 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 in the balance during the War of
Independence, our spies went undercover in Beirut, where they spent the
next two years operating out of a kiosk, collecting intelligence, and
sending messages back to Israel via a radio whose antenna was disguised
as a clothesline. While performing their dangerous work these men were
often unsure to whom they were reporting, and sometimes even who they’d
become. 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, improbably, as the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel’s vaunted
My Two Cents:
"Spies of No Country" is the story of four Jewish men who could pass as Arab and were able to move through the world assuming Arab identities. This book covers two different chapters: one when these men were spying back before Israel existed as a state and then after Israel became a state and they continued their spying in Beirut. This was a fascinating book that gives you just a taste of everything that these men went through.
Spies are always interesting to me, especially when they are able to pass seamlessly into the environments that they find themselves spying in. I had never given much thought to what it would take for a spy to go unnoticed in a place such as Palestine during and just after World War II. The tension there would have been massive and the entire environment would have been so unstable.
I enjoyed learning about these men and I appreciated that Friedman was able to count on firsthand interviews from one of the men (that research is absolutely priceless!!!). I did wish that the book included more detail. In many ways, the book is a collection of missions. I wanted to know a little more context but I always appreciate when a book whets my appetite to go do more research on my own. This was a solid non-fiction!