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Sarah Aaronsohn was a twenty-first century woman in a nineteenth-century world. She and her siblings were born as part of the first wave of Jewish immigrants who fled the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe in the 1880s, settling in the province of Syria-Palestine. By the outbreak of World War I in 1914 the settlers had come a dramatic distance in creating the Eretz Israel of their Biblical prophecies. Sarah’s home village of Zichron Ya’akov brought prosperity to their lands between the Mediterranean coast and the Mount Carmel range. But when the Ottoman Turkish Empire sided with Kaiser Wilhelm II and the other Central Powers in World War I, the Jewish settlements faced cruel oppressions.
This book describes how the Aaronsohns, one of the most prominent families in the province, came to commit themselves and their comrades to the Allied side and how they formed the NILI espionage organization to spy against the Turkish Army. Late in the war, in 1917, Sarah assumed command of the spy network as the group’s penetration of the Turkish army reached a critical juncture. Sarah was idolized by T.E. Lawrence, the fabled Lawrence of Arabia who dedicated his flowery biography, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, to her.
James Srodes is the author of Dream Maker: The Rise and Fall of John Z. DeLorean, Allen Dulles: Master of Spies, Franklin: The Essential Founding Father, and On Dupont Circle: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Progressives Who Shaped Our World. He lives in Washington, D.C.