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Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel

af Matti Friedman

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985220,358 (3.36)5
"The story of a ragtag unit known as the Arab Section, which was conceived in Palestine during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders, and which eventually became the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel's vaunted intelligence agency"--
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This was a good read -- at times, a page-turner -- about the birth of the Israeli intelligence service. The book examines the work of four young men -- Arab Jews -- who were recruited as spies at the birth of Israel. The chilling aspect of their work comes from the fact that they were spies of "no country" -- Israel was just becoming established and lacked the diplomatic and governance structures to support these young men. They also had severe cash shortages!

Those unfamiliar with the early history of Israel may find this book lacks the necessary background or context to allow the reader to fully appreciate the story of these young spies. Nor does it situate the events in today's context of ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the tensions on having a Jewish state in an area populated by Arabian Jews, Muslims and Christians as well as Western Jews who have migrated to the region.

But the book does well what it set out to do: putting human faces on historical events, and taking a complex look at a short time period. ( )
  LynnB | May 4, 2021 |
The book is well written, both at the sentence level and in broader terms (organization, narrative choices, etc.). Friedman does a great job at establishing the setting, right at the birth of Israel. But beyond that, there is not nearly enough. The story would be better told in a magazine article than in a book.

> Now we take for granted that Jews had no future at all in the Arab world, but that wasn't obvious right away. In Isaac's hometown of Aleppo, for example, the Jews had survived the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Rome in 70 CE, the birth of Christianity, the Byzantine Empire, the birth of Islam and the Arab conquest, dynasties of Arabs, Turks, and Mongols, and at least one devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the city. Why wouldn't it survive the birth of the State of Israel? ( )
  breic | Mar 12, 2020 |
The Arab Section was comprised on Arab Jews, who could blend into the Arab world during Israel's War of Independence. This book focuses on four spies who spent over two years deep undercover. This was a quick read and an interesting story. Overall, well worth picking up. ( )
  JanaRose1 | Apr 24, 2019 |
This book has a very good look at what spying really entails, a lot of waiting, planning, and occasional bursts of action. The one thing that would have made it better is a better delineation between the past and the present.

Free review copy. ( )
  mrmapcase | Jan 29, 2019 |
"The story of a ragtag unit known as the Arab Section, which was conceived in Palestine during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders, and which eventually became the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel's vaunted intelligence agency"--
  HandelmanLibraryTINR | Nov 12, 2018 |
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"The story of a ragtag unit known as the Arab Section, which was conceived in Palestine during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders, and which eventually became the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel's vaunted intelligence agency"--

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