Close this search box.

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, an Israeli native who dedicated his life to sharing my passion for the Holy Land with those interested in knowing more about this incredible piece of land. I’m the Chief Guide at ‘APT Private Tours in Israel’.

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


The Etzel (The Irgun)

The Etzel, otherwise known as the Irgun, was a Zionist semi-militarized organization that operated between 1931 and 1948 in Mandate Palestine.

Balian of Ibelin

Balian of Ibelin was a prominent medieval knight and nobleman who played a significant role in the history of the Crusader states.

The Weapons of the Roman Army

The weapons of the Roman military played a key role in their success. The Roman army was known for its advanced weapons and tactics.

Baldwin IV of Jerusalem

Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, often remembered as the "Leper King," is a remarkable individual whose story is intertwined with the Crusades.

The Battle of Megiddo

The Battle of Megiddo, fought 15th century BCE, was between the Egyptian forces under the command of Pharaoh Thutmose III and a large rebellious coalition of Canaanite vassal states led by the king ...


Philistia was populated by several different ethnic groups throughout history, including the Canaanites, Israelites, and Philistines

Khosrow II: The Last Sasanian King

The last Sasanian King is Khosrow II. He was the last great King of the Sassanian Empire. He was reigning from 590 to 628 CE. ...

Netzer Acharon: Zippora (Feige) Jacobowitz

This post is about Zippora (Feige) Jacobowitz and her life story that was what we call Netzer Acharon. But what is Last Remnant (Netzer Acharon)? ...

The First Jewish Roman War

The First Jewish Roman War (66–73 CE), was the first of three major revolts by the Jews against the Romans. Read all about it in this post!

The Architecture of Herod’s Palace

The architecture of Herod's palace in Jerusalem was probably outstanding. There are little remains of Herod's Palace. Click here for More!

Need help?

Skip to content