MH's Reviews > Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel

Spies of No Country by Matti Friedman
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An engaging history of four young Mizrahi Jews and their undercover work for the pre-Israeli intelligence unit, the Arab Section. Using recently declassified documents, interviews with the few survivors, and numerous happy snapshots the men took (they were not the most professional of spies), Friedman paints a compelling picture of young, brave men, outcasts and idealists, and their struggles with their assignments, their identities, and each other, all building to the massive changes to the Middle East as the idea of Israel becomes the state of Israel. He keeps a very narrow focus, staying on the street level with his spies and only going into the complicated history of the region when it directly impacts them (and even then very briefly, assuming the reader is familiar with the British partitioning of Palestine and the details of the wars that followed), and rarely looking outside of 1948 and 1949. This is a little disappointing - he refers to one spy raising his Jewish daughter as an Arab as "beyond the scope of this book" (79), and his one chapter solely devoted to modern Israel and its ongoing tensions between the European and Arabic world is absolutely excellent. I would have happily read more on both subjects, but his goal is to tell his story quickly and well, remembering these men in this time, and at that he's very successful.

I was fortunate enough to win an ARC through a Goodreads giveaway.
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Reading Progress

December 1, 2018 – Shelved
December 1, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
December 1, 2018 – Shelved as: giveaways
January 2, 2019 – Started Reading
January 5, 2019 – Finished Reading

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Jane I like your review and agree that I wish that he went into more detail about the wars and complicated relationship between the Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews.


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