Spies of No Country: Matti Friedman in Conversation with Lucette Lagnado

Credit: Mary Anderson

Spies of No Country: Matti Friedman in Conversation with Lucette Lagnado

Part of the Series First Person

Co-sponsored with the Center for Jewish History

Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 6:30 pm

$15 general; $12 seniors, $10 AJHS and CJH members and students

Matti Friedman’s new book, Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel tells the unknown story of four of Israel’s first spies. Recruited by a rag-tag outfit called the Arab Section before the 1948 War of Independence, they assumed Arab identities to gather intelligence and carry out sabotage and assassinations. At the height of the war the spies posed as refugees fleeing the fighting, reached Beirut, and set up what became Israel’s first foreign intelligence station. Spies not only tells a breathtaking and true espionage story, it also explores a different story about how the state was founded and raises many questions that are relevant today.

In a wide-ranging First Person conversation, Matti Friedman speaks with author Lucette Lagnado (The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit) about his journalism career, researching and writing his new book, and what Spies of No Country reveals about Israel in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Matti Friedman has reported from Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, the Caucasus, and Washington, DC. A former Associated Press correspondent, he is a contributor to The New York Times Op-Ed Page, and his writing has appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Tablet. Matti’s 2016 book Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War was chosen as a New York Times’ Notable Book and as one of Amazon’s 10 best books of the year. Pumpkinflowers was selected as one of the year’s best by Booklist, Mother Jones, Foreign Affairs, the National Post, and The Globe and Mail. It won the 2017 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish literature, the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for memoir, and was shortlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize, the Writer’s Trust Prize, and the Yitzkak Sadeh Prize for military writing (Israel). Matti’s first book, The Aleppo Codex, an investigation into the strange fate of an ancient Bible manuscript, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize, the ALA’s Sophie Brody Medal, and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for history. It was translated into seven languages. Matti was born in Toronto and lives in Jerusalem with his family.

Born in Cairo, Lucette Lagnado is a cultural and investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, where she has received numerous prizes for her work. She and her family left Egypt as refugees when she was a small child, an experience that helped shape and inform her recent memoirs, The Arrogant Years and The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit (Ecco/HarperCollins). In 2008, she was the recipient of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. She is also the coauthor of Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz, which has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Lagnado resides with her husband, journalist Douglas Feiden, in Manhattan and Sag Harbor, New York.