Dayan is a person who embodied the spirit of Israel. Born a sabra in Israel’s first kibbutz, Dayan’s early years included playing with his Arab neighbors and developing a life-long deep appreciation for the Old Testament and its tales of ancient Jewish warriors.
When fourteen Dayan joined the Haganah, a militant underground Jewish group. In 1937 he enlisted in the British-created Jewish settlement police force, while also leading settler raids for the outlawed Haganah. He learned a lot about guerrilla warfare from a non-conventional British officer, Orde Wingate, before being arrested and given a ten-year prison sentence for his Haganah activities.
World War II got him out of prison and into the Australian 7th Division, where he received the Distinguished Service Order and also lost an eye and gained his distinctive black eye patch.
Dayan was a warrior. He was also a poet, a politician, an amateur archeologist, and, in his final years, a peacemaker. It was ironic that, as foreigner minister for his long-time adversary, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, he played an important role in achieving the historic Camp David Accords, under which much of the territory that Dayan had captured from Egypt was returned.
Dayan was an extraordinary individual. Even his friends might call him a ‘loose cannon.’ As Ariel Sharon noted about Dayan: “He would wake up with a hundred ideas. Of them ninety-five were dangerous; three more were bad; the remaining two, however, were brilliant.” Drawing inspiration from the story of David and Goliath, he continually devised special ways and tactics to win a war against a much larger Arab force. The same person who stated that he “didn’t know anything more exciting than war” in his later life pursued a new mission: to find lasting peace with the Arabs.