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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

Matti Friedman is an Israeli Canadian journalist and author. Friedman was born in Canada and grew up in Toronto. In 1995, he made aliyah to Israel and now he lives in Jerusalem. Between 2006 and the end of 2011, Friedman was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press (AP) news agency. During his journalistic career, he also worked as a reporter in Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Moscow and Washington, D.C.Following the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, Friedman wrote an essay criticizing what he views as the international media's bias against Israel and undue focus on the country, stating that news organizations treat it as "most important story on earth. " He cited the fact that when he was a correspondent at the Associated Press (AP) , "the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the 'Arab Spring" eventually erupted. .. I don't mean to pick on the AP - the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. " Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the piece went "viral" on Facebook. The Atlantic then invited Friedman to write a longer article. Friedman's first book, The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible, was published in May 2012 by Algonquin Books. The book is an account of how the Aleppo Codex, "the oldest, most complete, most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible," came to reside in Israel. It was believed the codex had been destroyed during the 1947 Anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo when the Central Synagogue of Aleppo, where the codex was housed, was set on fire and badly damaged. In the book, Friedman also investigates how and why many of the codex's pages went missing and what their fate might be. The book won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, was selected as one of Booklist's top ten religion and spirituality books of 2012, was awarded the American Library Association's 2013 Sophie Brody Medal and the 2013 Canadian Jewish Book Award for history, and received second place for the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 nonfiction religion book of the year.

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