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Moshe Dayan stamp

Udi Dayan standing next to a metal sculpture he did of his father Moshe
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Yael Dayan
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Assi Dayan holding up artwork he did of his father Moshe Dayan
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Moshe Dayan with his first wife and mother of his three children, Ruth Dayan, reading together on Moshav Nahalal.

Reflections on the television miniseries “Valley of Tears” about the Yom Kippur war: My conversations with Moshe Dayan’s sons and daughter.

March 7, 2021

I recently watched  the Israeli television miniseries about the Yom Kippur war, which depicts the gruesome, stark battles in the Golan Heights during the first few days of the war, in which Syrian tanks had breached the front lines and many IDF soldiers had died, were wounded, or were taken prisoner. 
In Israel’s public memory the war was considered a failure mainly because Egypt and Syria’s fearless actions in starting the war took the Israeli security establishment by surprise. The war ended with close to 3000 Israeli deaths, and thousands more wounded. The public blamed Defense Minister Moshe Dayan for the IDF’s lack of preparedness and many called him a murderer. There is an archival film clip of Moshe Dayan  in “ Valley of Tears” and seeing it made me think of my conversation with sculptor Udi Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s middle child.  Udi told me that when Moshe Dayan died in 1981 at the age of 66 he was buried in the Moshav Nahalal cemetery but  there  were a number of  Nahalal families who had lost their sons  and grandsons in the Yom Kippur war. One of these Nahalal families put out a sign on their property calling Dayan a “murderer.” ("Rotzeach"). Udi explained that they didn’t want those attending the funeral, including the media, to see this sign and as a result the route for the funeral procession to the cemetery of Nahalal was altered so that no one would go by this sign.  Udi, who  passed away in 2017, was estranged from his father and  joked with me that he went to his father’s funeral because he knew Menachem Begin would be there and “I wanted to see Begin.”
Assi Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s youngest son, who was a famous Israeli actor and filmmaker who died at the age of 68 in 2014, told me that after the Yom Kippur War he thought his father should resign.  He wrote an article in the Hebrew press to this effect, while his sister, Yael, wrote a counter article defending her father, saying in effect he should not resign.  Assi, who was estranged from his father, denounced his father in print and on television for not resigning after Prime Minister Golda Meir had rejected Moshe Dayan’s proposal in  March 1971 to pull back from the Suez Canal, in order to take away Egypt’s desire to wage war against Israel.
As Mordechai Bar-On  wrote in Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Controversial Hero, “Dayan had never wanted the IDF to sit on the banks of the Suez Canal, and the War of Attrition further convinced him that Israel should not be the party blocking international passage through the canal.” Moshe Dayan “ sought to trade IDF withdrawal for a nonbelligerence agreement or at least a situation that would tie Egypt’s hands.” (p. 156)  
Moshe Dayan’s initiative was unsuccessful since Golda Meir was only willing to withdraw six miles, which Egypt found to be unsatisfactory and would not even discuss. As Bar-On relates, "Dayan, believing that Israel’s withdrawal and Egypt’s renewal of shipping would greatly reduce the threat of war, proposed redeploying some eighteen miles further east. He also suggested dismantling the Bar-Lev line and treating the arrangements as lasting.”  But Golda rejected Moshe Dayan’s proposal. Golda’s proposal to withdraw only 6 miles and leave the area demilitarized was completely rejected by Sadat, and Egypt thus prepared for battle which broke out in the Yom Kippur War two years later.
I asked Yael Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s daughter, whether she thought war could have been averted had Golda Meir listened to Moshe Dayan and withdrawn from the Suez Canal. Yael felt that in all likelihood it would have meant that the Yom Kippur War would have been averted. Sadat would likely have agreed to settle the final border through political negotiation rather than war.
Note that Assi Dayan did not speak to his father for most of the eight years before Moshe's death, after calling on Moshe publicly to resign. When Moshe Dayan died Udi Dayan published an article in the Hebrew press about how Moshe had not been a good father. Udi told me he came to regret writing the article.
Finally Ruth Dayan refused to come out in public against her ex-husband  Moshe following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. However, as Anthony David wrote in the book An Improbable Friendship,   Ruth "did bring a bottle of cognac to support an IDF reserve officer who pitched his tent outside Golda's offcie on a vigil to get [Moshe] Dayan to resign for mistakes that had cost three thousand Israeli lives." ( p.146).
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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