Just how important was Jewish underground in WWI?

Brig. Gen. Yaakov Amidror says British forces found assistance from Jewish underground network invaluable in helping to oust Ottomans.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Picture of Aharon Aharonson (Aaronsohn) at Bnei Akiva event
Picture of Aharon Aharonson (Aaronsohn) at Bnei Akiva event
World Bnei Akiva

During an event held by the World Bnei Akiva (WBA) movement last week to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the movement invited a hundred Bnei Akiva olim [immigrants to Israel] and donors for dinner at the home of Sarena and David Koschitzky. A guest of honor who also spoke at the ceremony was IDF Brig. Gen. Ya'akov Amidror, formerly the National Security Adviser and chairman of the National Security Council.

Amidror noted the important but often neglected role of Aharon Aharonson, one of the founders of the NILI underground organization during the First World War in the Land of Israel.

The organization's intelligence activity was critical for British forces which ousted the Ottoman Turks during the war, and later NILI helped in acquiring the Balfour Declaration. In his opening remarks, Amidror mentioned a unique connection that existed between his own family and Rivka Aharonson, the younger sister of Aharon Aharonson, whom he used to visit as a child.

Later Amidror said that it was always clear that NILI was significant as the first intelligence agency of the Jews in the Land of Israel. But until now it was not clear how the British Empire regarded the organization. Amidror, relying on research by his colleague Ephraim Halevy, a former head of the Mossad, said that documents from British espionage agency MI6 explicitly mention NILI as an organization that contributed to the intelligence capabilities of the British Mandate and to its capability to conquer Palestinian from Ottoman rule.

It furthermore arises that when the Balfour Declaration was worded, a draft of the declaration was sent to Aharonson so that he could say what he thought of it. "Such a gesture surely testifies to good relations and relations of honor between the British intelligence and NILI in general, and Aharon Aharonson in particular," Amidror said.

The NILI organization was a highly important source of intelligence for the State of Israel, and later became a significant tool for the establishment of the Jewish State. Amidror said: "It is important to understand, our military, as strong as it may be, serves a small country with relatively few resources, but the intelligence apparatus this country has is among the best around. Good intelligence enables us to choose and focus and most important and significant points for the country's resilience and thus to utilize the limited resources the military has in the best possible way."