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Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel
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2020 Moderator's Choices > Final Conclusions for Spies of No Country, by Matti Friedman -- February 2020

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Jan Rice | 1476 comments Mod
Here's the place for final thoughts and/or reviews of Spies of No Country. You can assume that other participants posting here have also finished it; spoilers okay.

By all means post a general Goodreads review as well!

Hahtoolah | 63 comments I read Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, by Matti Friedman (2019), several months ago. Here is the review I wrote at the time:

Spies of No Country focuses on the beginning of the Israeli intelligence force that began before the creation of the State of Israel. The book focuses on four spies who were born and grew up in the Arab countries and were familiar with Muslim customs, culture and language. They were of families who had lived in the Middle East long before the European Jews began to migrate to what would become the Land of Israel.

Gamliel Cohen was the most educated of the four spies. He was a Syrian Jew from Damascus. Isaac Shoshan was also Syrian, from Aleppo. Havakuk Cohen was a Yemeni Jew and Yakuba Cohen was a wild “street child” from Jerusalem. They were recruited by Palmach to be a part of the Arab Section ~ Jews who could “pass” for Arabs while gathering intelligence. They were deep undercover in Syria and Lebanon for a country that had yet to exist.

The author emphasizes that the State of Israel could not have been built without the Middle-Eastern Jews. It is hubris to believe that Israel was solely the creation of European Jews. After Israel became a State, Jews from around the Arab world were suddenly expelled from their homes and found their way to Israel. Today over 50% of Israeli Jews have roots in the Arab world. This is what makes Israel so unique and so difficult for Western countries to fully appreciate and understand Israel.

The author carefully researched this book, poring over archival materials and oral histories. Isaac Shoshan was an old man in his 90s when the author wrote this book. He met with the author several times and provide his recollection of his days in Palmach’s Arab Section.

This book was very enlightening on the beginnings of the State of Israel.

Stacey B | 926 comments Mod
I love your review. It is so true what you said about one of the reasons Israel is so unique.
I as well, am also aware of the authors research for this book.
The four spies who are the subjects of Matti Friedman's book were put into place a few years before Israel became a State. It was because of this execution that "Mossad" began to take shape.
Fascinating history lesson about Israel.

message 4: by Stacey B (last edited Feb 22, 2020 08:03AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stacey B | 926 comments Mod
In thinking about the book "Spies of No Country".....
Spies left in 1948 before Israel had become a state; therefore they were not referred to "Israeli's". History reflects borders with demographic shifts, showing a birthplace isn't always a homeland.

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