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October 16: Moshe Dayan

Lawrence Bush
October 15, 2016
Moshe Dayan, Israel's military chief during the 1967 Six-Day War, who became the symbol of Israeli courage, nerve, and endurance, died at 66 on this date in 1981. Born on the Degania Kibbutz, Israel's first, he was a fighter from the age of 15, and in 1941 lost his eye (and gained his signature eye patch) to a sniper while helping to prepare for an Allied takeover of Syria and Lebanon from Vichy France. Dayan commanded the Jerusalem front during the 1948 War of Independence and was chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces during the 1956 Suez Crisis, but lost public favor serving as defense minister when the 1973 Yom Kippur War rocked Israel. In 1977, as foreign minister, Dayan set in motion the negotiations that would lead to the1978 Camp David Accords. The following year, however, he resigned from the government of Menachem Begin in protest of its aggressive settlement-building. Dayan was a warrior-intellectual and a very complex figure -- seen by many of his peers as self-aggrandizing and arrogant, by others as the very embodiment of Israeli survival and security. In his own words, he "have traveled a long road from the battlefield to the peace table." To see a British newsreel clip about the Sinai campaign against Egypt, look below. "We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house." --Moshe Dayan

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.