Nili Underground

Exploring Israel

Nili Underground is Synonymous with the fight against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine between 1915 and 1917. Netzah Yisrael Lo Yeshaker (Nili) was a Jewish espionage network that fought for freedom. Translating to ‘the Eternal One of Israel will not lie,’ Nili helped the United Kingdom fight against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

In This Photo: The House of Aaron Aaronshon in Zichron

Nili Underground was a pro-British spying organization operated under the leadership of the world-renowned agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn, whose family was part of the early settlement of Zikhron Ya’akov that was established in the 1880s. 

In This Photo: Nili Museum in Zichron Yaakov

Aaronsohn’s claim to fame was discovering a weather-resistant form of primitive wheat. Backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and an American-Jewish organization, he established an experimental acreage at Atlit, where he researched dry farming.

Nili Underground: War Crimes, Famine, and Murder

The outbreak of World War I brought atrocities such as the deportation of Jews by the Turks, the mass slaughter of Armenians, and mounting famine that Aaronsohn and his siblings could not ignore. They joined forces with the British in the hope that they would let the world know of the Turkish oppression of local Jews. They also hoped for an invasion of Palestine by the British and the advancement of the Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Zichron Yaakov
In This Photo: Founders St. In Zichron

Under the guise of agricultural campaigns, Aaronsohn and his co-conspirators could move freely around the country and gather information about the inhumane actions of the Turks. Initially, the British rebuked the group, but after Aaronsohn risked his life by crossing Turkish lines and the Sinai Desert to reach Cairo, where the British were based, they realized the value of his Jewish spy organization.

While Aaronsohn remained in Cairo as a liaison to the British, his siblings took over the running of the spy organization, which now had over 20 collaborators.

The Demise of NILI

The spies provided the British with valuable information by several methods, including using light signals to one of their shops anchored off the coast and then homing pigeons. Vital information was passed on, including the details about an impending attack on the British in Beersheba and the Negev Desert.

Beit Aaronshon
In This Photo: Sarah’s Last Letter On DIsplay at Beit Aaronsohn

Sadly, when one of the homing pigeons mistakenly landed on the house of the Turkish governor in Caesarea in 1917, intense searches and persecutions followed. A few weeks later, the members of the NILI organization had all been found and captured. They were incarcerated and tortured, and some of the members were killed. Aaronsohn’s sister, Sarah, surrendered to the Turks to save her aging father from sure death and tragically committed suicide after four days of torture.

The End of Turkish Rule

In October 1917, the British army raided Beersheba and conquered the Turks, thanks to the vital information provided to them by the NILI organization. Jerusalem surrendered a few months later in December, and over 400 years of Ottoman rule ended. It can be said that the conquest of Beersheba would have been almost impossible without the massive amount of information provided by the NILI spies.

In This Photo: The New Display at Beit Aaronshon Museum

Learn all about this fascinating story at a museum dedicated to NILI in the old center of Zikhron Ya’akov. Wander around the galleries where hundreds of photos, letters, and dioramas tell the story of the Jewish spy ring during World War I.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

Did you know the Hoopoe is Israel's national bird?! For more cool info about Israel, join our ever growing community and get exclusive travel tips, and giveaways!

Simon Peter


Tel Megiddo

Tel Megiddo (Tel el-Mutesellim) is one of the most important Biblical Tels. This post tells about its discovery and excavations.

1947-1949 Palestine War

The 1947-1949 Palestine War is actually divided into two different phases. First, was the part that is called the 1947-1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine. ...


Geshur was a territory in the ancient Levant. There is little historical information we have about Geshur; and most of it is mentioned in the ...

The Haganah

The Haganah, the 'father' of the Israel Defense Forces. The organization that gave the victory to the young State of Israel in 1948

Tel Aviv: The City That Rose from the Sand

Get to know Tel Aviv which is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline and is the economic and technological center of the country.

Knights Templar

The Knights Templars were a Catholic military order founded in 1119, headquartered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem through 1128. The order was active until ...


Hashomer (literally means “The Watchman”) was a Jewish defense organization in Palestine founded in April 1909. Moreover, it was an outgrowth of the Bar-Giora group ...

Nebi Yusha Fort

Nebi Yusha Fort is a place that inspires the emotions of pain, for the price paid for independence, worth visiting if you are in the area.

Sarona Colony

Another great reason to come and check out Sarona Market is the Sarona Colony which is now a trendy commercial area called Sarona Tel Aviv. ...

The Political System of Canaan

This is very interesting story

Need help?

Skip to content