Dayan in Sinai, November 6,1956
This photograph shows Moshe Dayan surrounded by soldiers during the Suez Crisis (the Kadesh Operation) in November 1956. Dayan was the IDF chief of staff at the time. From his positioning in the photograph, he does not, despite his status, seem to see himself as above the soldiers but rather as one of them. In fact, as can be seen here, he personally commanded the soldiers during the war.
The soldiers around him are wearing various types of hats. This may be due to the fact that this picture was taken only eight years after the establishment of the State of Israel and army uniforms were not always standard issue. Read this for more information about the evolution of the IDF uniform.
The photograph was taken in Sharm El-Sheikh, a city on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. This city was captured by Israel during the Suez Crisis of 1956 but restored to Egypt in 1957. A United Nations peacekeeping force was subsequently stationed there until the 1967 Six-Day War when it was recaptured by Israel. Sharm el-Sheikh remained under Israeli control until the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982 as a result of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979.
The Suez Crisis was a battle that erupted for a number of reasons. Since the War of Independence, many Israeli civilians had been killed by terrorists who infiltrated via Egypt, the Gaza Strip, or other Arab countries. In the year leading up to the Suez Crisis, the terrorists, known as the Fedayeen, had become more organised and were arranging more terror attacks. This military operation was an attempt to stop these attacks. In addition, Egypt had blocked the Suez Canal which limited Israeli trade, effectively closing the port of Eilat. The British and French were also involved in the crisis, seeing the Egyptian blockade of the Suez Canal as a threat to their interests in the region. The war took place over eight days, and ended after the three governments—Britain, France, and Israel— were pressured into a ceasefire by the UN, the US, and the Soviet Union. By the end of the war, the Israelis had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, however they left Sinai in March 1957 when the UN took over. The presence of the UN in the area resulted in securing Israel’s borders until the Six-Day War in 1967. Moshe Dayan publicly expressed concern over the decision to leave the territories conquered in war, and this, ultimately, caused him to resign as chief of staff.
Teachers of Jewish Studies and Jewish History could use this source when teaching about Moshe Dayan, the Suez Crisis, the Israeli Army, and Egyptian–Israeli relations.
Geography teachers could use this source when discussing Israel’s borders and the Sinai desert.
Art teachers can use this photograph as an example of the role of photo journalism and war photography.
Describe the photograph.
Who are the people in the photograph?
What do you think they were doing at the time?
Who is the man in the cap at the centre of the photograph?
How do you think the people in the picture were feeling?
Why do you think this could be?
This photograph was taken during or just after the Suez Crisis.
Read more about the war on the internet or in other reference sources. Do you think the war was a success for Israel?
Why or why not?
This photograph was taken in Sharm El-Sheik in 1956.
Why were Israeli soldiers there at the time?
Who rules this city today?
What can Moshe Dayan’s position in the photograph tell you about his personality and about the relationship between the chief of staff and soldiers in the IDF?
How many different types of hats can you see in the picture?
How can you explain this?
The Hebrew name for the Suez Crisis is the Kadesh Operation (Mivtza Kadesh).
What and where was Kadesh (or Kadesh-Barnea)? Why was this the Hebrew name for the Suez Crisis?
Imagine the seconds before or after the photo was taken.
Write a conversation that might have taken place between some of the people in the photograph.
Links for more information
The Suez Crisis, Wikipedia