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Aaron Aaronsohn
Aaron Aaronsohn 1876-1919.jpg
Born 1876
Died 15 May 1919

Aaron Aaronsohn (Hebrew: אהרון אהרנסון‎) (1876 - 15 May 1919) was a Romanian agronomist, botanist, and Zionist activist. Aaronsohn was the discoverer of wild emmer (Triticum dicoccoides), believed to be "the mother of wheat."[1]


Aaron Aaronsohn was born in Bacău, Romania, and brought to Palestine, then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, at the age of six, when his parents were among the founders of Zichron Yaakov, one of the pioneer Jewish agricultural settlements of the First Aliyah.

After studying agriculture in France, sponsored by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Aaron Aaronsohn botanically mapped Palestine and its surroundings and became a leading expert on the subject. On his 1906 field trip to Mount Hermon, he discovered Triticum dicoccoides (known as the "mother of wheat"), an important find for agronomists and historians of human civilization.[2] It made him world-famous and, on a trip to the United States, he was able to secure financial backing for a research station established in Atlit in 1909. Aaronsohn built up a large collection of geological and botanical samples there and established a library.[3] Aaronsohn served as a scientific consultant to Djemal Pasha during a crop-destroying desert locust invasion in 1915.[4] In March–October 1915, a plague of locusts stripped the country of almost all vegetation.[5] Aaronsohn and the team fighting the locust invasion was given permission to move around the area known as Southern Syria (including modern day Israel) and made detailed maps of the areas they surveyed. They also collected strategic information about Ottoman camps and troop deployment.

At the time of World War I, the Ottomans had joined sides with the Germans, and Aaronsohn feared the Jews would suffer the same fate as the Armenians under the Turks. Together with his assistant, Avshalom Feinberg, his sister and a few others, Aaronsohn organized, and was the head of, Nili, a ring of Jewish residents of Palestine who spied for Britain during World War I. He recommended the plan of attack through Beersheva that General Allenby ultimately used to take Jerusalem in December 1917. Owing to information supplied by Nili to the British Army concerning the locations of oases in the desert, General Edmund Allenby was able to mount a surprise attack on Beersheba, unexpectedly bypassing strong Ottoman defenses in Gaza.[6]

In 1917, Chaim Weizman sent Aaronsohn on a political campaign in the USA. While there, he learned that the Ottoman authorities had intercepted a NILI carrier pigeon, which led to the arrest and torture of his sister Sarah and other NILI members. After the war, Weizmann called on Aaronsohn to work on the Versailles Peace Conference. On 15 May 1919, Aaronsohn was killed in an airplane crash over the English Channel in unclear circumstances. Some blamed the British government.[7] Aaronsohn died without being married and had no children. His research on Eretz Israel and Transjordan flora, as well as part of his exploration diaries, were published posthumously.

Published worksEdit

Aaronsohnia factorovskyi 1a


  • Agricultural and botanical explorations in Palestine, 1910
  • Reliquiae Aaronsohnianae, 1940


Further readingEdit

  • Ronald Florence, Lawrence and Aaronsohn: T. E. Lawrence, Aaron Aaronsohn, and the Seeds of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 2007, Viking Adult, ISBN 978-0-670-06351-2.
  • Chaim Herzog, Heroes of Israel, 1989, Little Brown and Company, Boston ISBN 0-316-35901-7
  • Goldstone, Patricia. Aaronsohn's Maps: The Untold Story of the Man Who Might Have Created Peace in the Middle East. San Diego: Harcourt, 2007.
  • Shmuel Katz, The Aaronsohn Saga, 2007, Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem ISBN 978-965-229-416-6

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