Yael Dayan, writer, politician and daughter of an Israeli war hero, dies at 85

Yael Dayan, a celebrated Israeli writer who, after the death of her father, the war hero and statesman Moshe Dayan, entered politics and became an advocate for women's rights, LGBTQ issues, and a two-state solution to the conflict Palestinian, died in May. 18 of her in her home in Tel Aviv. She was 85 years old.

His daughter, Racheli Sion-Sarid, said the cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mrs. Dayan was the last surviving daughter of Mr. Dayan, who served as Israel's defense minister during the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. With her signature black eyepatch: she had lost the left eye in combat. she with the British in World War II: she was the unmistakable patriarch of a family dynasty that many in Israel have compared to the Kennedys.

Mr Dayan's wife, Ruth, was the founder of the fashion house Maskit. Their son Assi was an actor and director. Another son, Ehud, was a sculptor.

Ms. Dayan became a literary celebrity at age 20 with “New Face in the Mirror” (1959), an autobiographical novel written in English about a young female soldier whose father is a military commander.

“One day my father came to camp,” he wrote. “He said that he was passing through and that he had decided to come and see me. He would never admit he came to see me. His arrival was, of course, an event: an occasion for intelligent and often useless greetings, for attentive and curious eyes. Will he kiss her when he leaves?

Writer Anzia Yezierska, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called “New Face in the Mirror” “an extraordinary account of the interior life of a rebellious teenager seeking self-realization.” She added: “There's an honesty and compulsive intensity in telling her story that haunts us long after we finish the book.”

Other books followed. In 1967, Ms. Dayan published two books: “Death Has Two Sons,” a father-son novel set during the Holocaust, and “Israel Journal,” a diary of her experiences during the Six-Day War under command of Ariel Sharon, who later became prime minister.

In prose that Charles Poore, a Times book reviewer for nearly 40 years, compared to that of Ernest Hemingway, Ms. Dayan wrote in the Israel Journal about how the war had changed her: “Nothing will be the same now. I observed the cessation of life, the destruction of matter, the pain of the destroyers, the agony of the victorious, and all this had to leave a mark.”

Ms Dayan decided to try politics after her father's death in 1981.

“It never felt right while he was still alive,” she told the American Jewish magazine Lilith.

As a member of the Labor Party, he served three terms in the Knesset. She was instrumental in passing legislation that outlawed sexual harassment. She also founded the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality and has supported measures that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Ms. Dayan has at times been a controversial figure in Israeli politics.

In 1992, she outraged her party and its leader, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, when she was photographed by a tabloid newspaper in a bikini on a Tel Aviv beach during Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday in the Jewish calendar.

Ms. Dayan, in turn, was outraged that her sunbathing had become a national scandal.

“Isn't a photo of a woman in a bathing suit off-limits to religious people?” she said in an interview with the Hebrew-language newspaper Hadashot. “Why are they looking at this photo?”

His most controversial political act came the following year, when he became the first Knesset member to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He gave her a copy of “My Father, His Daughter” (1985), a book about his father in which he wrote about his numerous extramarital affairs.

Mr. Arafat “has a public appearance that is not very attractive,” he told the Toronto Star after their meeting. “But this disappears quickly. He is a good listener. Very fast. Humorous and kind. He was a very worried man when I saw him.”

He believed that the only solution to the Palestinian conflict was separation – and he never wavered from that opinion. She opposed Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“It is inconceivable that we still have to discuss the Palestinians' right to self-determination,” he told The Star. “We still doubt that these are people. It's so stupid, it's like an ostrich burying its head.”

Yael Dayan was born on February 12, 1939 in Nahalal, a farming community in what is now northern Israel.

Considered a prodigy at an early age, she was already reading at the age of 3. She skipped several grades in elementary school. She started writing “New Face in the Mirror” when she was 17.

After serving as a captain in the Israel Defense Forces' public relations unit, he studied international relations at Hebrew University.

Ms. Dayan married Dov Sion, a colonel under Sharon's command during the Six-Day War, in 1967. He died in 2003. In addition to her daughter, she leaves behind a son, Dan Sion, and four grandchildren.

Ms. Dayan persevered in her advocacy for peace even when it put her in danger.

In 1996, while she was visiting Hebron, the West Bank city that is home to hundreds of settlers, a Jewish extremist approached her and offered her a cup of tea. Ms. Dayan agreed. According to the Jerusalem Post, the man threw tea in her face. Her neck and chest were burned.

Ms. Dayan continued with her tour.

A few days later, someone mailed her a newspaper photo of the incident and wrote, “It's a shame there was no acid.”

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