NILI

Key players of the NILI Spy Network




Aaron Aaronsohn  (1876 - 1919)

- Aaron was born in Bacau, Romania and immigrated to Eretz Yisrael (The land of Israel) when he was 6-years old.  His family settled in a small town called Zichron Yaakov. The town overlooks the Mediterranean Sea from a cliff.

- When Aaron was a teenager, the Baron Edmond de Rothschild sponsored his education in France. Upon his return, Aaron explored Eretz Yisrael and studied its flora, natural minerals and terrain. His knowledge of Eretz Yisrael was unparallel at the time.

- In 1906, he discovered wild wheat (mother of wheat) in the upper hills of the Galilee, in Rosh Pina. He became a famous agronomist. The U.S. invited him to discuss his work and to assist in dry farming issues.  He spent 1909-1910 in the U.S.

- Aaron returned with funds to start an Agricultural Experimentation Station in Atlit, just 12 miles north of Zichron Yaakov.

- When World War I broke out in 1914, Aaron and his friends had enough of the brutal Turkish oppression and decided to act.  Aaron and his good friend, Avshalom Feinberg, organized a spy group, which became to be known as Nili. Their mission was to aid the British by supplying them with intelligence, to aid in their attack (General Allenby) on Jerusalem (Dec. 1917)

- Aaron arrived in London, UK after a lengthy trip in 1916. He convinced the British officer at the war office to help them. They sent Aaron to Egypt to assist with intelligence.

- Aaron became a respected and knowledgeable member of British Intelligence. He also became involved in early talks and map plans for Eretz Yisrael, to be known as Israel.

- Aaronsohn was tragically killed by a plane crash approaching the coast of France. He was traveling to the Paris Peace Conference by an RAF plane. To this day the cause of the crash remains a mystery.

Source: Zionism and Israel - Biographies. Biography of Aaron Aaronsohn





Sarah Aaronsohn (1890 - 1917)

- Sarah was born in Zichron Yaakov and was the 5th child to Ephriam and Malka Aaronsohn.  She completed the required learning at the age of 12.

- She married Haim Avraham in the spring of 1914 and moved to Constantinople.

- She joined her brother and Avshalom after she returned to Palestine during World War I from Constantinople, Turkey.

- Upon return, she started to get involved in Aarons and Avshaloms activities in making contact with the British and supply them with intelligence. On her train ride home, she witnessed genocidal atrocities against the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.

- At the end of 1916, Aaron traveled to London to make contact with the British. Sarah and Avshalom were left in charge to run the Agricultural Station as well as organize intelligence.

- When Avshalom was killed, she was left to run the agriculture station and lead Nili as the field and headquarters leader.

- Once the Turkish caught Sarah, they tortured her for 3 days. On the 4th day, she was allowed to go home to change clothes, before being moved to a prison in Nazreth. She headed to the bathroom and wrote her last letter. She took a small pistol out of a hiding place and shot herself in the mouth. She died four days later at her home and was buried in Zichron's cemetery.

- She is known to Israelis as "Sarah the Heroine of Nili."





Avshalom Feinberg (1889 - 1917)

- Avshalom was born in Gadera.

- He studied with his uncle and then went to study Arabic and the Koran.

- He could read, speak and write Arabic and was a gifted poet.

- At the age of 14, he went to study in Paris, France for four years.

- He wrote a poem to Rivka Aaronsohn called A Thousand Kisses, which became a popular Israeli song.

- In 1910, Aaron Aaronsohn made Avshalom an assistant at his Hadera branch of the agricultural station.

- Avshalom died in the desert while trying to cross the border into Egypt. Avshalom and Yosef Lishansky found themselves under fire from a group of Bedouin. Both got shot. Yosef survived, but Avshalom didnt.

- Avshaloms grave was discovered in 1967 in the desert under a palm tree, which was known as The Jews Grave.

- The palm tree sprung up from dates that Avshalom had in his pocket.

- He was given a military heroes funeral and is buried in Jerusalem.






Yoseph Lishansky (1890 - 1917)


- In 1910, he married Rivka Broshkovsky and had 2 children, a girl, Ivria and a boy named Tuvia.

- In December of 1915, Yosef started to take part in Nili. He was a key member of Nili, working the field with Sarah and maintaining contact with their agents.

- In the beginning of 1917, Avshalom Feinberg and Lishansky decided to go to Egypt and make contact with the British. They had a run-in with some Bedouin and Lishansky was shot and Avshalom was shot and was killed.  Yosef made it to Egypt while he was wounded and told Aaron what happened.

- In October 1917 he was caught and sentenced to death in Damascus and on the night of the December 16, 1917 he was hanged.

- In 1967, he was finally given a military funeral and is buried in Jerusalem.

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