She knew the end was coming. A warning had come that a column of the occupying Turkish Ottoman army was heading out from its base at the nearby Palestinian port of Haifa with orders to find her. It was late September 1917, the time of Yokkut, the Festival of the Tabernacles, and the young colony of Zikhron Yaakov had been celebrating a bountiful harvest. Now the music stopped and the people melted away.
Sarah Aaronsohn was 27 years old, from the most prominent family among the founders of Zikhron Yaakov in the first wave of Jewish settlers who arrived in the 1880s; they came from Romania. Only a few people in the town knew that the Aaronsohns’ home was at the center of an elaborate network of spies that she headed.
For more than a year British army intelligence chiefs in Cairo had been receiving astonishingly detailed reports on Turkish military dispositions throughout Palestine from a network who called themselves the NILI—an acronym for a phrase in Hebrew from the prophet Samuel, “the strength of Israel will not lie.”