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Spies of No Country

Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 6 hrs and 2 mins
Categories: History, World
5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Summary

Award-winning writer Matti Friedman's tale of Israel's first spies has all the tropes of an espionage novel, including duplicity, betrayal, disguise, clandestine meetings, the bluff, and the double bluff - but it's all true. 

The four spies 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 and assassinations, 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 in the balance during the War of Independence, our spies went undercover in Beirut, where they spent the next two years operating out of a kiosk, collecting intelligence, and sending messages back to Israel via a radio whose antenna was disguised as a clothesline. While performing their dangerous work these men were often unsure to whom they were reporting, and sometimes even who they'd become. 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, improbably, as the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel's vaunted intelligence agency.

©2019 Matti Friedman (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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Unsung heroes

Brilliantly written and superbly read, this story of the unsung heroes of the nascent state of Israel deserved to be told. These were Jewish refugees from Arab countries who endangered their lives by becoming spies in those countries. Heroism of the greatest kind. As one who is married to a 'Mizrachit', whose parents immigrated to Israel from Aden, the story really resonated for me. Millions of viewers around the world have been hooked on the Netflix series FAUDA, about the mistar'vim, the Arabic-speaking Israelis from Mizrachi families who infiltrate the West Bank to fight Arab terrorism. But as Matti Friedman writes, these special unit operatives are only suitable for hit and run scenarios. They are not 'Arab' enough to maintain their cover for any period of length. All in all, Spies of No Country is a fascinating account of secret agents in a bygone age. Some of them came from Aleppo. I wonder what they think of the modern-day carnage that has left Syria's second city in ruins. Sadness, surely.

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  • David Mane
  • 23-06-19

Absolutely brilliant

Spellbinding, personal and above all touching. Plus original, it’s pretty rare to find new ground in history. I really enjoyed and it left me wishing there was more.

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  • Rosemary
  • 24-04-19

Very interesting history of a forgotten time

The book is a bit slow, the memories of certain Israeli agents at the very outset of the intelligence service before Israel was really established. The stories drag a bit as true stories with all their cumbersome details often do but for followers of little known historical events it's a winner.

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  • Dave
  • 27-12-19

INTERESTING PEICE OF ISRAELI HISTORY

Gripping narrative. Well written and good insight into a small section of the War for Israeli independence. I have a read a lot on this subject but this book gave me a lot of new information.

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  • mort laitner
  • 15-09-19

Read This Book

I found Spies of No Country extremely well written. The author held my interest through out the book.
I loved learning about a spy section I knew nothing about.
By the end of the book you feel you know and care about its main characters.
My congratulations to the author for a job well done.

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  • Kyle
  • 31-08-19

Interesting

It’s about displacement. It’s well written so that a reader can relate to it on the level of internal or mental displacement.

There is some history; and there is some politics; but it’s not really about those things. I appreciate the spies and refugees perspective in the book.

Although the audiobook voice actor was not my favorite 😂

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  • Chelle
  • 17-06-19

Untrained spies with little support

A rather sobering read about post-WWII Hebrew spies who tried to navigate through extreme hardship – they were required to live in abject poverty, physical danger - many were killed, and debilitating loneliness without training or any real support. Kim by Rudyard Kipling is mentioned quite a bit, time for me to dust off that book and endeavour to read it to the end this time. I had just finished reading Habakkuk in the bible and one of the young men in this book is also named Habakkuk: the author notes that both Habakkuk’s displayed a similar passion and mindset towards their ‘country’ – they did.

Extra: Though the topics in this book are challenging, the author doesn’t present them with gratuitous violence. I can’t remember any swearing, though one of the spies keeps lambasting others in Russian, so I’m not quite sure what he was saying ;)

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  • Kevin
  • 05-06-19

awesome book

great book with interesting insights on Israel and the stories that created it. very good narrator

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 19-05-19

Isreal History - dry however unique

my father faught in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. This gave me an understanding of my heritage

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  • DFK
  • 14-05-19

Interesting material

The subject of this book is interesting, but I think the author jumps around too much in time. It might be impossible to keep politics out of such a story, but I felt that too much politics were injected into it. The author shows sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian refugees and for the plight of the Jews who founded the State of Israel. It is indeed difficult to balance these. It is the attempt at explaining the right-wing turn of the State of Israel where I think his politics become more problematic and should not be the subject of the book. The book is supposed to be about spies, but yet he diverges and talks about immigrant groups. Friedman attributes the current character of Israel as having become right-leaning and more religious than the Ashkenazi secular founders envisioned to the fact that half of the (Jewish) population is made of of those Jews who came from Arab lands and their descendants, who were much more traditional than the secular, socialist Ashkenazi founders of the state. The fact that these Jews are from Arab lands made them have a different view - perhaps more distrustful - of the surrounding Arab peoples, according to Friedman. This might be true, but he does not address the fact that the leaders of the most right-wing parties in Israel are still Ashkenazim, almost all religiously motivated, and that the religious expression of Mizrahi Jews (those from Arab lands) has been strongly influenced by ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews, so that, for example, you find the leaders of the Shas party (dominated by Jews from Arab lands) wearing the black hats and clothing of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox. Yes, there has been a more recent interest in the general population in liturgical poetry, largely Sephardic, and the Mizrahi music that has been composed for those liturgical poems, but the condition of the State of Israel is much more complex than that and than what Friedman suggests. I'm not sure that a book about the early spies of the time prior to and just after the founding of the State of Israel was the right platform to try to get into these topics. They are interesting topics, the book therefore becomes food for thought, and had me thinking about alternative histories - what could have been, but the exploits of the spies, and their ultimate impact should be much more the content of this book.
As always, Simon Vance does a superb job, though his attempts at Hebrew pronunciation are sometimes amazingly good and sometimes not.

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  • Ran
  • 13-05-19

great story of the early days of israeli

the story focuses on the early days of the country and combines several complex topics including the imigration of jews from Arab counties into a predominantly European state, the imigration of Arabs from the newly formed Israel and the creation of the IDF and the state in general.
It is well balanced in it's nerative and told and a very clear and exciting way. I really enjoyed the reading and only whished it was longer