"Englishmen often talk about 'playing the game,' but even during the war, few Britishers played it to a finer finish than this Jewish girl."
– Capt. L.B. Weldon of British Naval Intelligence
"And if there were a few people who could understand me, there aren't many of them left. The dearest and most special one who knew and understood me so well is no longer with us. . . . I prefer not to speak of him, because the heart aches too much and silence, in this case, is a better cure than words."
– Letter from Sarah Aaronsohn to Liova Schneersohn
Listen To A Reading From the Woman Who Fought An Empire
Though she only lived to be twenty-seven, Sarah Aaronsohn led a remarkable life. The Woman Who Fought an Empire tells the improbable but true odyssey of a bold young woman—the daughter of Romanian-born Jewish settlers in Palestine—who became the daring leader of a Middle East spy ring.
Following the outbreak of World War I, Sarah learned that her brother Aaron had formed Nili, an anti-Turkish spy ring, to aid the British in their war against the Ottomans. Sarah, who had witnessed the atrocities of the Armenian genocide by the Turks, believed that only the defeat of the Ottoman Empire could save the Palestinian Jews from a similar fate. Sarah joined Nili, eventually rising to become the organization’s leader. Operating behind enemy lines, she and her spies furnished vital information to British Intelligence in Cairo about the Turkish military forces until she was caught and tortured by the Turks in the fall of 1917. To protect her secrets, Sarah got hold of a gun and shot herself. The Woman Who Fought an Empire is at once an espionage thriller and a Joan of Arc tale.
“The Woman Who Fought an Empire, Gregory J. Wallance’s beautifully written and meticulously researched account of Sarah Aaronsohn’s leadership of the Nili spy network during World War I, casts a long overdue spotlight on one of the most fascinating personalities of the early Zionist era and should be required reading for anyone interested in modern Jewish history.”
– Ronald S. Lauder, President, World Jewish Congress
"A solid, well-researched biography of a remarkable woman."
– Ronald Florence, author, Lawrence and Aaronsohn: T.E. Lawrence, Aaron Aaronsohn and the Seeds of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
"Wallance's saga is a fascinating, entirely readable entry into the history of the Nili spy ring, a group of Jews who spied for the British in hopes of aiding in the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire in Palestine. Aaronsohn, the leader of the operation, was motivated by witnessing the Armenian genocide on her way from Constantinople to her hometown of Zichron Ya'acov. She feared a similar fate would befall Jews under the Ottomans, and set out to do her part to influence regime change. . . . Wallance leaves readers marveling at her accomplishments and wondering, intentionally or not, what more she could have accomplished with colleagues more like herself."—Ariane Mandell, Jerusalem Post
(Ariane Mandell Jerusalem Post 2018-05-03)
"Wallance vividly conveys the logistical challenges and daily intrigue of operating a spy ring in that time and place."—Jeff Fleischer, Foreword
(Jeff Fleischer Foreword)
"In order to prevent further Turkish atrocities, Aaronsohn and her Nili ring of spies began offering the British, who were fighting the Turks in battles in Egypt, information from behind Ottoman lines. Wallance paints a portrait of a complex woman who performed heroic work during difficult times. For those looking for a book about espionage that has real human lives at stake, this little-known story is a tremendous read."—Lorraine Berry, Signature Reads
(Lorraine Berry Signature Reads 2018-04-12)