From the award-winning and critically-acclaimed author of Pumpkinflowers, the never-before-told story of the mysterious "Arab Section": the Jewish-"Arab" spies who, under deep cover in Beirut as refugees, helped the new State of Israel win the War of Independence.
In his third non-fiction book, Matti Friedman introduces us to four unknown young men who are caught up in the fraught events surrounding the birth of Israel in 1948 and drawn into secret lives, becoming the nucleus of Israel's intelligence service. The tiny, amateur unit known as the "Arab Section" was conceived during WWII by British spies and by Jewish militia leaders in Palestine. Consisting of Jews from Arab countries who could pass as Arabs, it was meant to gather intelligence and carry out sabotage and assassinations. When the first Jewish-Arab war erupted in 1948 and Palestinian refugees began fleeing the fighting, a small number of Section agents disguised as refugees joined the exodus. They fled to Beirut, where they spent the next two years under cover, sending messages back to Israel over a radio antenna disguised as a clothesline. Of the dozen men in the unit at the war's beginning, five were caught and executed.
Espionage, John le Carré once wrote, is the "secret theater of our society." Spies of No Country is not just a spy story, but a surprising window into the nature of Israel--a country that sees itself as belonging to the story of Europe, but where more than half of the population is native to the Middle East. Starring complicated characters with slippery identities moving in the shadow of great events, Spies of No Country tells a very different story about what Israel is and how it was created.
MATTI FRIEDMAN's 2016 book Pumpkinflowers: An Israeli Soldier's Story was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book and as one of Amazon's 10 Best Books of the Year. It was shortlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize and Writers' Trust Prize, and won the Canadian Jewish Literary Award and the Vine Award. Matti's first book, The Aleppo Codex, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize, the ALA's Sophie Brody Medal, and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for History, and was translated into seven languages. Matti's work as a reporter has taken him from Israel to Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, the Caucasus, and Washington, DC, and his writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He is a former Associated Press correspondent and a regular contributor to Tablet Magazine and the Jewish Review of Books.
Praise for Spies of No Country:
Winner of the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for History 2019
"With Spies of No Country, Matti Friedman proves that he is one of the essential interpreters of Israel writing today." —Yossi Klein Halevi, New York Times bestselling author of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor
"Spies of No Country is thrilling, moving, and, like everything that Matti Friedman writes, deeply humane." —Nicole Krauss, author of Forest Dark
“Compelling and compulsively readable. Friedman is a lyrical writer and a master of suspenseful storytelling.” —Franklin Foer, author of World Without Mind
“An exciting historical journey and highly informative look at the Middle East with Israel as the starting point.” —Kirkus Reviews