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Aaron Aaronsohn

(1876 - 1919)

Aaron Aaronsohn, agronomist (b. Bacau, Romania; d. English Channel). At the age of six he was taken by his parents to Eretz Israel. His father was one of the founders of Zikhron Ya'akov. Aaronsohn studied in France and on his return was employed as an agronomist by Baron Edmond de Rothschild at Metullah (1895). He made extensive explorations in Eretz Israel and neighboring countries and in 1906 discovered specimens of wild wheat (triticum dicocoides) at Rosh Pinah, a discovery that made him famous among botanists throughout the world.

At the invitation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Aaronsohn visited the United States in 1909­1910. With the help of influential Jewish leaders and philanthropists he raised funds for the establishment of an agricultural experiment station at Atlit near Haifa.

In 1915, with Avshalom Feinberg and members of their families, Aaronsohn organized Nili, a secret intelligence group with the aim of assisting the British forces under General Edmund H.H. Allenby to conquer Eretz-Israel, thus helping to realize Zionist aspirations. Moving to Cairo, he helped British headquarters there in planning the campaign for the invasion of Eretz-Israel. In 1916 he visited London and there circulated a memorandum on the future of Eretz-Israel, which helped to make the idea of a Jewish National Home in Eretz-Israel part of British policy in the Near East. In 1918, Aaronsohn worked in conjunction with the Zionist Commission in Eretz Israel, and, in 1919, he cooperated with the Zionist delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, dealing especially with the problem of the Eretz Israel boundaries.

Aaronsohn was killed in an airplane crash over the English Channel on May 15, 1919. His research on Eretz Israel flora and part of his exploration diaries were published posthumously.

Sources: New Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel, ed., Geoffrey Wigoder, Copyright 1994 by Associated University Press, The Jewish Agency for Israel and The World Zionist Organization.