Of all the public figures in Israel's short history, Moshe Dayan remains the most charismatic, fascinating and enigmatic....



Of all the public figures in Israel's short history, Moshe Dayan remains the most charismatic, fascinating and enigmatic. His daughter, acclaimed novelist Yael Dayan, now provides an intimate view of this soldier-statesman. But the enigma remains. He was a warm and loving father, a hugger and kisser who loved playing games with the children. He took them on trips to archeological sites and shared with them his passion for the artifacts of Jewish prehistory. Yet, as one point he slaps Yael's face simply because she is reading a third-rate book about vampires. He expected nothing less than the best for--and from--his children. The author traces her father's career from his imprisonment by the British through his ultimate resignation from government in 1979, adding little or nothing to the public record. She can give no explanation for why he abruptly quit as Chief of Staff following his brilliant management of the 1956 Suez war. He was at the peak of his popularity, with a brilliant future that could have led all the way to the Prime Ministership. He said he wanted to take a degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. And so, age 43, off to college he went. Yael, who entered the university at the same time, saw little of him, even though they were sometimes in the same classes. He had changed dramatically, and embarked on a series of sexual adventures that deeply wounded his wife and children. His attitude was that his family must simply adjust to his peccadillos. To wife Ruth he wrote: ""The day you ask for a divorce, I'll grant you one, but it's entirely up to you."" After 15 years of humiliation, especially after his sex life became the stuff of lurid newspaper headlines and even of a trashy novel by a former mistress, Ruth finally ended the marriage. After his death, his family learned he had disinherited his wife of 35 years and had left his children only a few scraps of property. His considerable fortune went to his second wife. No reason given. He was an enigma to the end. The book, however, is also about the daughter. And the life of Yael is an engrossing chronicle of the coming-of-age of a woman, a writer, and a mother in modern Israel. We follow her from a childhood rich in relatives, through adolescence, schooling and military training and service, her life always affected by the towering presence of Moshe. She was twice interrogated in her teens because the authorities thought she might be inadvertently revealing classified information to men she was involved with. She publishes her first book (New Face in the Mirror) at age 20 and becomes the darling of European intellectuals. Yet in 1967 she returns to Israel to serve in the Yom Kippur war. There she meets her husband Colonel (now General) Dov Sion. The autobiographical pages of this book reveal her to be a powerfully emotional yet clear-minded woman--a modern Israeli and world citizen, no longer just Moshe Dayan's daughter.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1985


Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985