This Week’s Guest: Matti Friedman
Long before the Mossad became known as one of the world’s most capable intelligence agencies, Israel’s first spies were dispatched to Beirut without so much as a radio to contact home. In the spring of 1948, a handful of young Mizraḥi Jews were recruited to serve in the Palmaḥ’s Arab Section and charged with going undercover among the Arab population of Palestine and neighboring countries. Sent back into the Arab lands they had left behind, they risked their lives to become spies for a country that was yet to be born.
In his new book, Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, journalist and author Matti Friedman focuses on the lives of four of these men, transporting us back to a world without a state of Israel or an IDF, where the fate of Palestine’s Jews remained uncertain and the project of Jewish statehood hung in the balance.
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In this podcast, Matti Friedman joins Jonathan Silver to discuss the challenges and risks faced by the spies while undercover, the complex identities of these Mizraḥi Jews posing as non-Jewish Arabs, and the importance of telling their stories.
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