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Aaronsohn's Maps: The Untold Story of the Man Who Might Have Created Peace in the Middle East Hardcover – September 10, 2007

3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Goldstone (Making the World Safe for Tourism) puts scarce Mideastern water resources front and center in this flawed biography of Aaron Aaronsohn (1876–1919), a founder of NILI, a group that spied for the British in Palestine during WWI, and a pioneering agronomist and hydrologist. Goldstone is best at depicting British diplomacy and intra-Jewish politics leading up to the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine—a British declaration influenced, she shows, by a 1916 memo from Aaronsohn on Palestine's potential to absorb million of Jews. Goldstone makes errors (such as stating that Israel lost the Sinai Peninsula in the 1973 Yom Kippur War) and offers the tendentious, unsourced claim that in 2003, right-wing Jewish lobbyists hoped that a defeated Iraq would be used as a haven for persecuted Palestinians run out of Israel. Above all, she never makes a case for her thesis that Aaronsohn's plan for regional sharing of water resources could have prevented the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict. (For another account of Aaronsohn's life, see Lawrence and Aaronsohn, reviewed on p. 46.) 8 pages of b&w photos. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"[A] spry scholarly detective story... Goldstone honors both Aaronsohns, closing with notes on how Aaron''s plans for equitable water rights in Palestine might have led to peace today."
(Kirkus Reviews)

"[A] well-researched, resourceful, politically balanced... account of the life of the man who made the fatal mistake of taking issue with the leaders of the Zionist movement... Hers is the first true biography."
(H.V.F. Winstone, author of THE ILLICIT ADVENTURE)

"How we got to the Middle East of today is at the heart and soul of "Aaronsohn''s Maps" by Patricia Goldstone. Goldstone has dug deep to come up with the bio of the agronomist, diplomat and spy who helped found Israel. There''s more than a touch of T.E. Lawrence in this child of Jewish settlers in Palestine: Aaron Aaronsohn''s spy network helped the British take Jerusalem in World War I; he compiled the first maps of water in the arid region; his sister, also a spy and possibly Lawrence''s lover, was captured and tortured to death. Aaronsohn died in a plane crash in 1919; his vision for a peaceful Middle East died as well."
(San Diego Union Tribune)

"[O]ffers the intriguing notion that, had Aaronsohn lived, his unique survey of Palestinian water sources could eventually have facilitated a peaceful boundary with Lebanon and Syria."
(Library Journal)

"Aaron Aaronsohn''s fascinating story will come as a major surprise to most students of Middle Eastern history... a tour de force."
(Winnipeg Free Press)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; First Edition edition (September 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151011699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151011698
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,132,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Aaronson's Maps" is a misleading and confusing book. It claims to be a biography of an unsung hero of the Zionist revolution in the Land of Israel - Aaron Aaronsohn. A brilliant and versatile man, he won worldwide fame as a discoverer of wild wheat. During WWI, convinced that the British victory over the Turkish army was vital for the Jewish future in Palestine, Aaronsohn organized the NILI group, a spy ring which provided the British army with important information facilitating British victory over the Turks. In 1919 Aaronson joined the Zionist delegation to the Paris Peace Conference where the case for Jewish independence in Palestine was presented to "The Big Four". He died in a plane crash on his way to Paris to present maps of the future Jewish state. His arguments, used by the Zionist delegation, convinced the world that Palestine had enough water resources to sustain large Jewish and Arabs communities. Unfortunately, "Aaronsohn's maps" fails the memory of Aaronsohn and lets down many in Israel who sincerely cooperated with Patricia Goldstone providing her with documents about Aaronsohn and the NILI group. The author, not being a professional historian, displays a cavalier attitude toward historical facts. She reshuffles them with dexterity of a gossip columnist ill-prepared to deal with complex historical situations. The heroic image of Aaronsohn is besmirched by unfounded conclusions. His dreams and ideas of the Jewish revival in the Land of Israel are corrupted by insinuations of Zionist intrigues which allegedly precipitated WWI in Europe and, later, the intervention of the USA in that war. Goldstone fails to present her main claim that Aaronsohn is "a man who might have created peace in the Middle East".Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I had previously read three other books related to the Aaronsohn story so I expected to be on familiar territory when I picked up this book.

The very beginning held great promises - I actually felt it would be a 5 star book. Unfortunately, as I read on, my initial impression gave way to bafflement, and after finishing this book, I was more willing to give it a half star...

Presented as a serious work of research, it is actually more of a sensationalist collection of unsubstantiated claims, theories that don't add up and, overall, a most confusing text.

Threads are started to be abandonned without conclusions, theories are built based on muddled logic, unsubstantiated claims are presented as facts, while in some cases Goldstone simply seems to contradict herself. (For instance, she seems to question that the Armenian massacre ever happened, then towards the end of the book seems to accept it as a fact.)

Even the title of the book is misleading - the author only devotes a few pages towards the end to Aaron's proposed maps for Palestine, spending more time trying to prove - inconclusively - that Sarah was Lawrence of Arabia's one and true love.

I have never read a book with so many factual errors, which is surprising as Goldstone has clearly done a lot of research. However, it seems that some of it was shoddy, while in other cases she got confused, and yet in other cases she decided to reinterpret the facts to fit her conclusions.

Here are some of the errors I have found which show a lack of historical and cultural knowledge on her subject:

- p 74: Aaron Aaronsohn is described as "first Sabra" ("Aaron, by now too accustomed to his leading role as first sabra" - however he was born in Romania.
Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
What I hoped would be an interesting book on a fascinating man, Aaronsohn’s Maps fails in basic facts and details - at least the parts I read, before deciding not to use it as a reference for the book I am writing. On pages 117-118, there is a reference to First Sea Lord "Jackie" Fisher as being Winston Churchill's predecessor. Churchill was Fisher's superior, not his predecessor. Churchill was First Lord of the Navy, a Cabinet Office position, whom the First Sea Lord (Fisher) served as head of naval operations. Wikipedia could tell you this. There was a reference to Sir Mark Sykes (about whom I am writing a book) as a member of the De Bunsen Committee asserting he spoke many [Middle Eastern] languages, while in fact he spoke none. The author incorrectly attributed a famous quote by T.E. Lawrence about Sykes, found in his "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" (Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1935, p. 58), in which he referred to Sykes as a "bundle of prejudices, intuitions, half sciences", etc, to Commander (not Admiral) D.G. Hogarth, Lawrence's boss at the Arab Bureau. Finally, reference was made to Francois Georges-Picot, Sykes' French partner in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, as "the French envoy to the Arab world". He was no such thing. Formerly the French consul in Beirut until the outbreak of WWI, he worked in the Quai d'Orsay (French Foreign Office) until he was assigned to work in the French embassy in London, to represent France in negotiations with Britain on what became the Sykes-Picot Agreement, dividing up the Ottoman Arab lands between Britain, France and Russia (and later Italy).Read more ›
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