She'd shudder to hear me say she looked frail with the oxygen tube running to her nostril or that the help she needed in getting around seemed out of place for someone who'd fought so many battles both with foreign enemies and the domestic political sphere. Still, the most dangerous weapon Yael Dayan has ever had is her mind. It was as sharp as ever.
Yael Dayan helped shape my ideological life. I grew up watching the daughter of Moshe Dayan do live exchanges on Nightline with Palestinians and everyday people who were trying to make sense of the quagmire that is the Middle East. She served in the Israeli Knesset for decades and has authored several books. One, My Father, His Daughter, I read years ago but am currently re-reading. Her new book, Transitions, as she told me while signing my copy, is a follow-up to the previous one.
Her appearance at the MJCCA Book Festival reignited my hope for the region and for the ability to hang in the trenches when fighting for what is right. It is hard for me to explain, but listening to Yael's fired-up passion, mixed with her quick wit, rekindled a willingness to fight the good fight.
She wasted no time in lambasting Trump or taking on the hostile questioners from the audience who seemed to think peace wasn't worth the struggle. (Mind you, their opposition was voiced while staying in the comfort of their Atlanta homes). She relayed how in her previous stop on the tour, a couple had stood up and called her a self-hating Jew. She said, she still hadn't figured out what that meant.
Yael Dayan had fought in three wars and made it clear that there is no 'good war'. I was also moved by her regret of having missed the Rabin Memorial gathering in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. She said it was the first time since the assassination that she hadn't attended.
I did get to ask a question. I asked how the growing gap of have's and have-not's in Israel, when combined with a sense of endless corruption, was going to impact the political system in the near future. I mentioned the J14 Movement and how in the end it had failed to bring about change.
Yael went in depth about the corruption and her role in trying to wipe it out. She spoke of sadness in having seen Olmert sent to jail and with pride in her role in writing the law that sent President Katsav to jail for rape. She reminded the audience that there were many things wrong with the Israeli government under Netanyahu. Ironically, the festival probably couldn't have this range of speakers if it was held in Israel, at least not without government approval.
I look forward to finishing her books. I felt honored to meet her afterwards and wish Yael Dayan healthier days and success in her ventures. For me this was a highlight I will carry with me the rest of my life.