Sarah Aaronsohn

A spy for the Nili ring, Sarah Aaronsohn fought to free Palestine from Turkish rule and withstood torture for her ideals. Born to a prominent family in the Zichron Ya’akov moshav, Aaronsohn had little formal education but trained herself as a linguist, becoming fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, Turkish, French, Arabic, and English. She travelled extensively throughout the region as assistant to her brother Aaron, a noted botanist. In 1914 she briefly married an older merchant, Chaim Abraham, and accompanied him to Istanbul, but the couple quickly divorced and she returned to the moshav. During the trip home, she witnessed the Armenian genocide by Ottoman forces. Horrorstricken, she vowed to help the British eject the Ottomans from Palestine. She joined Nili, co-founded earlier that year by her friends and siblings, and oversaw operations and communications with British forces. She also liaised with Turkish forces to deflect their suspicions. After the Turks decoded key transmissions in 1917, Aaronsohn refused to flee, and was captured and tortured at the moshav. She held out without revealing any information, and finally shot herself with a pistol, dying four days later from the gunshot wound. Her courage and determination made her a heroine of the early settler movement.

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Nili activist Sarah Aaronsohn

Institution: Tamar Eshel

Date of Birth

Zikhron Ya'akov

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sarah Aaronsohn." (Viewed on May 6, 2021) <>.


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