October 1, 1917 – Turks Capture Jewish Spy Ring in Palestine
Pictured – Sarah Aaronsohn and Avshalom Feinberg, leaders of the Nili spy ring that worked for the British in Palestine. Sarah was captured on October 1 and committed suicide after four days of torture.
On October 1 1917 Turkish authorities in Palestine broke a Jewish spy ring that had been operating since 1915, arresting its leader Sarah Aaronsohn. Aaronsohn headed the spy ring, which also included her brothers. Called the Nili, the group publicly provided aid to starvation victims in Palestine, which gave them permission to travel around the country and meet with Ottoman officials. Unknown to the Turks, Aaronsohn and the others passed on everything they learned or saw to British intelligence.
Aaronsohn believed that British rule would allow more Jewish autonomy than the Turks, and also feared the possibility of persecution under Ottoman rule such as had happened to the Armenian Christians. However most of the Jewish community in Palestine feared Aaronsohn’s activities would bring a fierce crackdown.
German submarines in the Medittereean forced the Aaronsohn ring to use homing pigeons to contact Cairo. The capture of a bird by the Turks allowed authorities to unravel the group. Aaronsohn and several others were caught. Held under house arrest and tortured for four days, Aaronsohn would commit suicide with a hidden pistol on October 5.