Israelis You Should Know: Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan in 1950 (Photo: GPO Photo Collection/COHEN FRITZ)

Name: Moshe Dayan

Life: May 20, 1915 - October 16, 1981

About him: Moshe Dayan was an Israeli war hero, military leader, and politician.

Moshe Dayan was born on Kibbutz Degania Alef, near the Sea of Galilee. The kibbutz - the first in what would become the state of Israel - was located in what was then Ottoman Syria, to which Dayan's parents had made aliyah from Ukraine. Born in the Holy Land, he was named after Moshe Barsky, the first member of the kibbutz to be killed in a terrorist attack, murdered while getting medicine for his father.

At only 14 years old, Dayan joined the Haganah, the Jewish defense force that was the precursor to today's IDF. During World War II, he served in the Holy Land, often against Vichy French Lebanon. It was during such a campaign that Dayan received the wound that would define his physical appearance. In June 1941, he was scanning Vichy French positions when a sniper's bullet struck his binoculars, severely damaging his left eye. Surviving the shooting, Dayan was forced to wear a black eyepatch the rest of his life.

Dayan would be a military leader during Israel's War of Independence. David Ben-Gurion appointed him military commander of the Jewish areas of Jerusalem in 1948. He would also lead Israeli forces during the Suez Crisis in the 1950s.

He is remembered for overseeing the capture of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967. Dayan remained Defense Minister when Golda Meir became Israel's fourth Prime Minister in 1969. He held this post during 1973's Yom Kippur War, after which he entered the world of politics. Serving in the Knesset, he also served as the minister of agriculture, minister of defense, and minister of foreign affairs, and was the main architect of the Camp David Accords. Dayan passed away in 1981, after a battle with colon cancer.

But perhaps the defining moment in Moshe Dayan's career serving the Jewish state came in 1956 when he delivered the defining speech of Zionism, as a eulogy for a young Israeli soldier who was murdered:

A generation of settlement are we, and without the steel helmet and the maw of the cannon we shall not plant a tree, nor build a house. Our children shall not have lives to live if we do not dig shelters; and without the barbed wire fence and the machine gun, we shall not pave a path nor drill for water. The millions of Jews, annihilated without a land, peer out at us from the ashes of Israeli history and command us to settle and rebuild a land for our people. But beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquility blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms.

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