1915 Nili Founded To Spy For the British

Aaron Aaronson

Members of "NILI", believed that by spying for the British they would bring about British victory over the Turks, and thereby gain a Jewish State..

World War I pitted the British against the Ottoman Empire. Some of the Jews of Palestine were convinced that supporting the British would help bring about a Jewish State. Led by Avshalom Feinberg and Aaron Aaronson, this group recruited other members of the Zichron Ya'acov community to work on behalf of the British. They called their organization NILI (Netzah Israel Lo Y'Shaker). Contact was made with the British, and in 1916 and 1917, NILI transmitted important intelligence information to the British. Feinberg and Joseph Lishansky were ambushed by Bedouins near El Arish in 1917, and Feinberg was killed. In September of that year, a carrier pigeon used by NILI was ambushed. Two weeks later, a member of NILI was arrested and after torture, disclosed some of the group's secrets. In early October, the Turks surrounded Zichron Ya'acov and arrested Sarah Aaronson. They tortured her for three days, during which she refused to betray her friends. After three days, she managed to commit suicide, ending her agony. Two of the others -- Joseph Lishansky and Na'aman Belkind -- were executed by the Ottomans on December 16, 1917.