A celebrated botanist, who had won world fame as the discoverer of “wild wheat,” Aaron Aaronsohn (1876–1919) created the first Jewish Agricultural Experiment Station in Palestine – then under Turkish rule – in 1910. His venture was supported and funded from the u.s. by a group which included Julius Rosenwald, Justices Louis D. Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter (both later on the u.s. Supreme Court), Judah L. Magnes (later President of the Hebrew University), and Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah.
In World War I, reacting against the oppressive Turkish regime, Aaronsohn founded a Jewish spy organization, nili, to help the British in the forthcoming battle for Palestine. Here is told the story of Aaronsohn, who is revealed as a master of strategy, and his sister Sarah, whose self-sacrificing devotion to the cause shows her to be a great historic personality in her own right.
Historian Shmuel Katz here rectifies the absence of a comprehensive biography of Aaronsohn and the nili spy ring. Meticulously researched British War Office intelligence documents and the letters and field reports of nili’s central figures illustrate the crucial contribution made by nili to the British conquest of Palestine.
Powerfully written, with deep sensitivity to the emotional lives of the people portrayed, The Aaronsohn Saga is both solid history and a marvelous read.
About the Author SHMUEL KATZ was born in South Africa in 1914. He moved to Palestine in 1936 but in 1939, invited by Vladimir Jabotinsky to come to London, he there founded the weekly Jewish Standard to promote the idea of a Jewish national army in the war against Nazi Germany. He returned to Palestine in 1946. A journalist, author, translator, historian, political activist, and book publisher, he has enjoyed a multifaceted career spanning many disciplines. A member of the High Command of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, member of the first Israeli Knesset, and advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977, Katz has been intimately involved in the entire history of the modern State of Israel.
His books, written in both English and Hebrew and translated into other languages as well, include Days of Fire, Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine, Battletruth: The World and Israel, the Hollow Peace, and Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir Gefen Publishing House (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky.
…Katz’s language is fluent and engaging, [reading] more like a novel than a work of history. He paints colourful portraits of all the main fi gures in the epoch and in doing so he also provides a fine picture of the life and times of the Yishuv and its relations with the outside world.'
In the contemporary review of the 1936 travelogue Palestine on the Eve, by the Hungarian-born journalist Ladislas Farrago, a British writer wrote:
‘…one day, truth will emerge from the well, and the Empire will learn what it owed to Aaron and Sarah Aaronsohn, Avshalom Feinberg, and others of that devoted band, who endured and died for their faith under the inspiration of Aaron.’
Thanks to the indefatigable efforts and meticulous scholarship of Shmuel Katz, it seems that ‘one day’ may have finally arrived.” Laurence Weinbaum reviewer for Jewish Affairs