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

Matti Friedman. Algonquin, $27.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61620-722-9
In evocative prose detailing mid-20th-century life in the dangerous streets of Haifa and Beirut, journalist Friedman (Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story) recounts the intertwined stories of four underground spies for the Arab Section of the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization in Palestine that became part of the Israel Defence Forces after Israel’s founding. Gamliel Cohen, Isaac Shoshan, Havakuk Cohen, and Yakuba Cohen (no relation), whose fluency in Arabic and roots in Syria, Yemen, and British Palestine made them useful at the dawn of the Jewish state, were active between January 1948 and August 1949. Often disguised as Arabs, sometimes working alone and sometimes in teams, they participated in the blowing up of a fake ambulance concealing a bomb destined for a Jewish movie theater, the failed assassination of a Muslim preacher called Nimr (“Tiger” in Arabic), and the attempted destruction of a yacht that once belonged to Hitler and was rumored to be destined for refitting as a warship. The author’s best material comes from primary sources, including interviews with Shoshan, now 93, and Gamliel Cohen’s 2001 book. That and Friedman’s familiarity with the locations he describes give his account an intimacy lacking in many espionage tales. “I was looking less for the sweep of history than for its human heart,” he writes, and he finds it. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/10/2019
Release date: 03/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-64375-043-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-6651-2628-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-6651-2627-4
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-7710-3882-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-68457-126-0
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