Aaronsohn, Aaron

Aaron Aaronsohn (1876-May 15, 1919) was a renowned Romanian-born Jewish agronomist, botanist, traveler, entrepreneur, and Zionist politician. He was born in Bacău, Romania, and brought 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 his study in France, 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 wild emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccoides), an important find for agronomists and historians of human civilization. Aaronsohn believed it to be “the mother of the wheat”. It made him world famous, and on a trip to the United States, he was able to get financial backing for a research station he established in Atlit (the first experimental station in the Levant).

Aaronsohn was the founder and head of Nili, a ring of Jewish patriots spying for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland during Word War I. Owing to information supplied by Nili to the British Army, General Edmund Allenby was able to mount a surprise attack on Beersheba, unexpectedly bypassing strong Ottoman defenses in Gaza.

After the war, Aaronsohn was hired by Chaim Weizmann to work on the Versailles Peace Conference but was killed in an airplane crash over the English Channel. His research on Eretz Israel and Transjordan flora, as well as part of his exploration diaries, were published posthumously.