Who was Moshe Dayan?
Moshe Dayan was born on May 20, 1915 in Kibbutz Degania Alef. He was born to pioneers who had moved to Israel from the Ukraine. He was the first native-born Israeli to become the minister of defence.
At the age of six, Dayan’s family moved to Nahalal, the first moshav (cooperative agricultural settlement) founded in 1921. He spent most of his childhood in this rural environment and studied agriculture at the agricultural school.
At the age of 14, Moshe Dayan joined the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organisation during the time of the British Mandate. With the onset of Arab riots, the Haganah joined forces with the British and established the Jewish Settlement Police, which Dayan joined. However, the relationship with the British was complex, and after finding Haganah members in possession of illegal weapons, 43 were imprisoned in Acre Prison, among them the young Moshe Dayan. However, as World War II progressed, the British realized they needed the support of the Haganah, and all prisoners were released.
Moshe Dayan then went on to join the Palmach, the Haganah’s elite fighting force, and participated in a number of missions against the Vichy forces in Lebanon in collaboration with the British. It was during one of these missions, in 1941, that Dayan was shot in the face while looking through binoculars and lost his left eye, earning him his most distinctive feature: his eyepatch.
In 1947, Dayan became a senior staff member of the Haganah in charge of Arab affairs. During the War of Independence, he was appointed military commander of Jewish-controlled Jerusalem.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, Moshe Dayan held many important positions within the IDF and was promoted to chief of staff in 1953. Over the course of his tenure, he achieved a number of things including negotiating large weapons’ contracts and leading the country in the Suez Crisis, its first battle since independence.
In 1959, Dayan ventured into the political arena, becoming minister of agriculture in David Ben-Gurion’s cabinet. In 1967, he became defence minister and served in this position also during the Six-Day War and at the time of the 1972 hijacking of the Sabena flight by terrorists. Dayan refused to negotiate with the terrorists and orchestrated a military operation to free the hostages. (Watch this video to see an interview with him on the subject.)
After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Dayan was held accountable by the Israeli public for the surprise attack, and he resigned from politics.
He returned, however, in 1977 as foreign minister and was instrumental in initiating the peace process with Egypt and planning the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. He resigned two years later, going on to establish his own political party, Telem, which advocated unilateral disengagement from the territories.
Moshe Dayan died on October 16, 1981 and was buried in Nahalal.
DID YOU KNOW?
Moshe Dayan attended a course at the British Army’s Senior Officers’ School in England in 1951.