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. The intelligence gathered by the network was crucial for the British in liberating Palestine in what would be the first dramatic victory for the Allies. Sarah’s tragic end would prove important in holding the victors to their promise of a new Jewish state. Sarah was idolized by T.E. Lawrence, the fabled Lawrence of Arabia who dedicated his flowery biography, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, to her.