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Spies in Palestine: Love, Betrayal, and the Heroic Life of Sarah Aaronsohn



Original Language: English | 224 pp. | December 2016

2 Seas Represents: Dutch, French and Nordic Rights 


“In this engaging story of the woman called the Flame of Israel, a woman greatly admired by the fabled Lawrence of Arabia, Srodes also details the lost opportunity for a peaceful alliance between the new Israel and the indigenous people of the region.” —Booklist

“What the CIA would give for its own Sarah Aaaronsohn gathering secrets in today’s Syria—or anywhere else!  Spies in Palestine offers not just a relevant, fascinating window into the history of that troubled region, but a riveting spy story told by a master journalist.”—Jeff Stein, intelligence correspondent for Newsweek

“Spies in Palestine brilliantly spins a compelling World War I yarn of a talented and daring family of Jewish settlers who risked everything to help the British defeat the Turkish Empire, an essential step in creating a Jewish homeland.  Working parallel to the legendary Lawrence of Arabia, Sarah Aaronsohn and her family have an equal claim to memory in the tragic history of the Middle East.”— David O. Stewart, author of Madison’s Gift and The Wilson Deception

Ms. Aaronsohn’s story is grippingly told by James Srodes in an account that also explores, in brisk and incisive language, a phase of World War I that historians tend to skim past. [H]is book is an engaging five cloak/ five dagger read. Washington Times

In more than half a century of reading intelligence literature, seldom have I encountered an operative with the raw courage of Sarah Aaronsohn….An engaging five cloak/ five dagger read. —  San Diego Jewish World

Pulitzer Prize nominee James Srodes recounts the dramatic life of Sarah Aaronsohn and her family. It’s a story filled with spies, presidents, and unspeakable loss, and it shines a new and bright light on the extraordinary woman who undertook an historic task and helped create modern Israel.

She’s been called the Jewish Joan of Arc and she’s almost certainly “S.A.,” to whom T.E. Lawrence dedicated his renowned biography Seven Pillars of Wisdom. She is Sarah Aaronsohn, the dynamic leader of a ring of Jewish spies working for the British in WWI during the time of Turkish-rule. Aaronsohn’s prominent family allowed her great freedom, and cover. She formed and led the group’s clandestine operations, smuggling information to British agents offshore. When the Ottomans ferreted out the leadership of the spy ring in 1917—because of a carrier pigeon—they arrested her. After four days of torture, Sarah managed to get to the bathroom in her home, where she’d hidden a pistol under a tile. She killed herself.

Sarah Aaronsohn was a 21st-century woman living in a nineteenth-century world. In the 1880s; Sarah Aaronsohn 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 province of Syria-Palestine. By the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, the settlers had come a dramatic distance in creating the Israel of their Biblical prophecies. 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.

Author James Srodes 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 also 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.

Spies in Palestine is an extraordinary look at a woman who lived and fought well before her time.