Israeli-Canadian author to speak to the Shalom Sydney Jewish Writers Festival about latest book, Spies of No Country

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In 1948, four Mizrachi men, native to the Arab world and who could easily assume Arab identities, went undercover in Beirut. 

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. These men were part of the Arab Section, a unit conceived during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders in Palestine. 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.

This gripping true story has been meticulously researched and masterfully told in Spies of No Country by Canadian/Israeli journalist and award-winning author, Matti Friedman. This book 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.

Matti Friedman first visited the Shalom Sydney Jewish Writers Festival in 2016, and now returns for an exclusive live interview on July 28th. A former Associated Press correspondent, Friedman has worked in 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.

His 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.

Friedman’s 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.

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Event Details 

Matti Friedman will be interviewed live by former Shalom Programming Director and Sydney Jewish Writers Festival Director, Michael Misrachi, who now lives with his family in Rehovot, Israel.

Live over Zoom. 28th July at 8pm. Book at www.shalom.edu.au 

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