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I Am Not A Spy: An American Jew Goes Deep in the Arab World & Israeli Army

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The true story of an idealistic young American Jew committed to promoting peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Few American college students who study abroad receive constant accusations of being a spy. But that’s what happens to Michael Bassin, enrolled for a semester exchange at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. When Michael, despi The true story of an idealistic young American Jew committed to promoting peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Few American college students who study abroad receive constant accusations of being a spy. But that’s what happens to Michael Bassin, enrolled for a semester exchange at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. When Michael, despite advice to the contrary, reveals his Jewish identity to his new classmates, students, faculty, and the secret police respond with shock and suspicion. In between visiting Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and northern India during breaks from class, Michael develops die-hard enemies and loyal allies on campus. He is thrown into the role of reluctant ambassador for the Jewish people, for America, and Israel as he responds to the conspiracies and threats made against him. Nevertheless, he finds his efforts to promote understanding are not in vain. As he develops genuine friendships, he sees the positive effects of face-to-face interaction with people who had never met a Jew before. But Michael’s fight for peace doesn’t end with his university experience. He moves to Israel and joins the Israeli army as a combat Arabic translator, becoming the face and voice of his unit during both friendly and hostile interactions with Palestinians in the West Bank. While enforcing an occupation about which he feels conflicted, Michael once again finds that person to person relationships provide the best path to peace in the Middle East.


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The true story of an idealistic young American Jew committed to promoting peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Few American college students who study abroad receive constant accusations of being a spy. But that’s what happens to Michael Bassin, enrolled for a semester exchange at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. When Michael, despi The true story of an idealistic young American Jew committed to promoting peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Few American college students who study abroad receive constant accusations of being a spy. But that’s what happens to Michael Bassin, enrolled for a semester exchange at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. When Michael, despite advice to the contrary, reveals his Jewish identity to his new classmates, students, faculty, and the secret police respond with shock and suspicion. In between visiting Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and northern India during breaks from class, Michael develops die-hard enemies and loyal allies on campus. He is thrown into the role of reluctant ambassador for the Jewish people, for America, and Israel as he responds to the conspiracies and threats made against him. Nevertheless, he finds his efforts to promote understanding are not in vain. As he develops genuine friendships, he sees the positive effects of face-to-face interaction with people who had never met a Jew before. But Michael’s fight for peace doesn’t end with his university experience. He moves to Israel and joins the Israeli army as a combat Arabic translator, becoming the face and voice of his unit during both friendly and hostile interactions with Palestinians in the West Bank. While enforcing an occupation about which he feels conflicted, Michael once again finds that person to person relationships provide the best path to peace in the Middle East.

30 review for I Am Not A Spy: An American Jew Goes Deep in the Arab World & Israeli Army

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joe Boudreault

    Here is a five-star read. Stories from the Jews have always fascinated me, especially since I made my way through Chaim Potok's “Wanderings” in the late 70s. Michael Bassin, an American, embeds himself in a university in the UAE to make friends and study the ways and wiles of the Middle East. Accusations fly. Tensions and worries mount. Blunt assessments parallel little white lies. Bassin turns Egyptologist, mild Lebanese critic, Syrian adventurer, even temporary Muslim student. Wandering Jew i Here is a five-star read. Stories from the Jews have always fascinated me, especially since I made my way through Chaim Potok's “Wanderings” in the late 70s. Michael Bassin, an American, embeds himself in a university in the UAE to make friends and study the ways and wiles of the Middle East. Accusations fly. Tensions and worries mount. Blunt assessments parallel little white lies. Bassin turns Egyptologist, mild Lebanese critic, Syrian adventurer, even temporary Muslim student. Wandering Jew indeed! From his first-person viewpoint, the reader is placed into a unique perspective of the most tumultuous area of the world. Protesting that he is not a spy, Bassin unwittingly becomes a sort of espionage agent as he openly probes the minds and cultures of his university friends and would-be enemies. It is poignant and compelling and very revealing. It is point-counterpoint between Judaism and Islam as Bassin attempts (sometimes successfully) to shake hands and find a smile across the cultural mileage between the Jew and the Arab. The scattering of the centuries, of values and ideologies, baffles him, as it should. This is the number one battlefield of the mind that exists in our world. While making a raid on a Palestinian home with the IDF, Bassin reports: “All the lights were off, which scared me half to death. Going into a strange house to make an arrest is unnerving enough when you don't know what threat lies behind every corner. Doing so in the dark is worse.” This seems to sum up all of Bassin's experiences. Afraid of what his alleged friends think. Always wondering about his status among his hosts. Frightened of the real dangers that ignorance vs enlightenment present to him. A cultural darkness of mistrust countered with moments of genuine friendliness. Brilliant insights are underwritten with dark humour and understandable resignation. I laughed and wept at his conversational engagements with Arabs. Bassin stands at Israeli checkpoints and feels both the vitriol of Palestinian travellers and the simple kindness of local residents alike. A strange situation, where a Jew who has performed aliyah (migration to Israel) to discover that his spiritual homeland has changed him. Yet he is still very much in diaspora among his comrades. This is a pleasing and informative read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gayna M Bassin

    This book is the true story of a young American college student who decides to reveal his Jewish identity while studying at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. His mission was to make peace, one person at a time, by meeting with people who had never met a Jew before. His experiences and interactions with the people he meets are alternately hilarious, hair-raising and shocking. Accused of being an Israeli spy by students, faculty and the secret police, Michael finds hi This book is the true story of a young American college student who decides to reveal his Jewish identity while studying at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. His mission was to make peace, one person at a time, by meeting with people who had never met a Jew before. His experiences and interactions with the people he meets are alternately hilarious, hair-raising and shocking. Accused of being an Israeli spy by students, faculty and the secret police, Michael finds himself a reluctant ambassador for the United States, Judaism and Israel. Ironically, when Michael later immigrates to Israel and joins the Israeli Army, he is suspected of being an Arab spy! A real page-turner, this book also takes us on adventures through several other Middle Eastern countries, where wild conspiracies and real spies lurk. Through it all, Michael loses some of his idealism but not his humanity, giving a spark of hope that real peace is still possible. Extremely well written and informative, this book should be required reading for anyone interested in the complex politics and history of the Middle East. (Disclaimer: Michael Bassin is my son. I didn't know about a lot of these events until much later, when he came home to write this book after his 2-year army service. Even as his mother, I am amazed at this brilliant and engaging work.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Johno

    Incredibly thoughtful and well-written take of the current state of attitudes among different countries, cultures and classes throughout the Middle East. Michael's story is an exciting adventure and MUST READ for anyone that has a stake in or is even somewhat curious about the region.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karen Dilbeck

    Intriguing Intriguing and educational all at the same time! I would highly recommend tjos to anuome who wants a bird's eye view into the ongoing Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Holt

    Well written and engaging!! Quite unique in its presentation of opposing perspectives born in the Middle East but influential world-wide!

  6. 5 out of 5

    jmgkmg

    What a great book! I bought it on my Kindle and only allowed myself to read it when I went to the gym, and it was quite a motivator to get me there! I had no idea that Jews were thought of as spies even in Dubai - we in America have no clue what goes on - just what the media chooses to tell us! I was amazed that they really thought he was a spy, right up to the end of his time there! Then the part about the IDF was excellent - I liked his honesty when talking about some of the fellow soldiers th What a great book! I bought it on my Kindle and only allowed myself to read it when I went to the gym, and it was quite a motivator to get me there! I had no idea that Jews were thought of as spies even in Dubai - we in America have no clue what goes on - just what the media chooses to tell us! I was amazed that they really thought he was a spy, right up to the end of his time there! Then the part about the IDF was excellent - I liked his honesty when talking about some of the fellow soldiers that were angry and did not treat people as they should - and I admired him for trying his best to be friendly with them and treat them like his "grandparents" as he was told to. I am so glad he decided to write this book!

  7. 5 out of 5

    robert aikey

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura S. Fishler

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Fratina

  11. 4 out of 5

    Benami grobman

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lena Karabanova

  13. 5 out of 5

    talia schmidt

  14. 4 out of 5

    don wigger

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shlomi

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Kidniz

  17. 4 out of 5

    Deby

  18. 4 out of 5

    Billy

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julie Blinbaum

  20. 4 out of 5

    Adam Goldman

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zev Clementson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hebrew

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

  24. 5 out of 5

    charles daugherty

  25. 4 out of 5

    JOHN

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pamela R Gardner

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brett Provinsky

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna Elashvili

  30. 5 out of 5

    R. DE JAGER

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