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The Shalom Sydney Jewish Writers Festival is thrilled to announce award-winning author Matti Friedman in conversation with Michael Misrachi. They’ll be discussing his latest book, Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at The Birth of Israel.

Revel in the gripping true story of four Mizrachi agents as they assume Arab identities. We follow their undercover escapades in 1948 Beirut, collecting intelligence for Israel. Guaranteed to make you hold your breath between pages, Spies of No Country is an eye-opening look at the paradoxes of the Middle East.

Tune in to hear an in-depth discussion of Friedman’s scintillating subject matter, examining the complicated cultural history of Israel.


About the book, Spies of No Country 

This is the true story of four agents who were part of the Arab Section, a unit conceived during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders in Palestine. Intended to gather intelligence and carry out sabotage operations, the unit consisted of Mizrachi Jews who were native to the Arab world and could thus easily assume Arab identities.

In 1948, these men went undercover in Beirut, where they spent the next two years operating out of a newsstand, collecting intelligence and sending messages back to Israel via a radio whose antenna was disguised as a clothesline. 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 as the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel’s vaunted intelligence agency.

Spies of No Country is about the slippery identities of these young spies, but it’s also about the complicated identity of Israel, a country that presents itself as Western but in fact has more citizens with Middle Eastern roots and traditions, like the spies of this narrative. Meticulously researched and masterfully told, Spies of No Country is an eye-opening look at the paradoxes of the Middle East.


Matti Friedman, author

Matti is a journalist and award-winning author of three books. A former Associated Press correspondent, Matti’s work as a reporter has taken him to Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, the Caucasus, and Washington, DC, and his writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Tablet Magazine. Matti’s first book, The Aleppo Codex, an investigation into the strange fate of an ancient Bible manuscript, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize. His 2016 book Pumpkinflowers, about a group of young soldiers, including Matti, charged with holding one remote outpost in Lebanon in the late 90s, was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book and as one of Amazon’s 10 Best Books of the Year. His most recent book, Spies of No Country (2019), the story of Israel’s first intelligence agents in 1948, was awarded the 2018 Natan Book Award.


Michael Misrachi, interviewer

Michael led the educational program offering at Shalom and served as Director of the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival for nine years, before moving to Israel in 2017. Michael co-produced the SJWF Voices of Israel film project to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary, during which he interviewed renowned Israeli writers Gil Hovav, Ron Ben Yishai, Dorit Rabinyan and Meir Shalev. Michael currently works at the Institute for Quality Leadership where he develops leadership programs. He lives in Rehovot with his family and new dog, Disney.


BOOK NOW! Tuesday 28th July 8-9pm (Sydney time / AEST – Click here to check your time zone)

This is a pay-what-you-can-event. Tickets start at $5, and you can choose to increase, or leave your ticket at the starting price. 

Shalom is non-profit organisation and is passionate about creating affordable, engaging and inspiring online content for the entire community.

For more information about this event, please contact Anna Stern anna@shalom.edu.au / 9381 4273

Purchase Spies of No Country and have it delivered from Gertrude & Alice / 9130 5155