Yael Dayan on Her Father's Legacy, Her Political Career and Her Illness

She was an international jet-setter, author and later a militant Knesset member much reviled by the right wing. Now illness has obliged her to adopt a somewhat slower pace.

Not long ago, Yael Dayan packed her things and moved from her spacious home on Ruppin Street in Tel Aviv, close to the sea, to a handsome apartment in Rabin Square. She left behind memories of more than 30 years of marriage to her late husband, Dov Sion, and of an intimate friendship with the late poet Dahlia Ravikovitch, who was a neighbor. The home where Dayan and Sion raised their two children is evoked by the sign on the door of her new apartment − on which Sion’s name appears alongside hers − and by an abundance of fine objects collected over the years, though not all of them are on display in her new, smaller home. Still, wherever one looks in the well-lit apartment one discovers delightful treasures, including a splendid children’s room for her four grandchildren, who are frequent visitors.

“Now I am close to work,” Dayan says, referring to the proximity of her new home to city hall, where she chairs the municipal council. When she walks to work in the morning, cafe-goers on the west side of the square can see her, aided by a cane, pulling a mobile oxygen tank and accompanied by a caregiver.

Dayan is not a healthy woman. Seven years ago, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which turns the very ability to breathe into an effort and something that cannot be taken for granted. But it could be worse: She does not need oxygen 24 hours a day and she certainly does not waste her time wallowing in self-pity in her charming apartment − from which she can see the iconic square and the unspeakably ugly city hall.

Dayan is simply a realist. She has discovered definitively that she will not live forever. It’s in some of the Dayan family genes. She, the politician, has a Filipina caregiver; her brother, the film director and actor Assi Dayan, who is six years younger, is looked after by a Filipino caregiver. Only Udi, the middle sibling, a former fighter in the naval commandos who is now a sculptor, is as healthy and handsome as ever. Their mother, Ruth Dayan, 96, is perfectly healthy. “But I regret to say that she still drives, which is very dangerous,” Dayan says of her. Her aunt Reuma, 87, the widow of former President Ezer Weizman, is also in good health.

At home, as she serves excellent fruitcakes of her own making and jams made together with her caregiver, Dayan speaks in muted tones and even displays signs of a sense of humor, which she seems to have developed only in the past few years. She was long one of the politicians most abhorred by the right wing, as a fighter for peace and civil rights. In regard to advancing the rights of gays and lesbians, no other Israeli politician can match her achievements. Settlers once poured boiling tea on her and she regularly received threatening letters and phone calls. Even now, when her political activity is confined to the municipal level, she is the target of vicious attacks, bordering on violence. This time, though, the assailants are just as likely to come from peace parties, such as the opposition Meretz party.

“People who encounter me on the street still treat me as though I were an MK and congratulate or attack me for my struggle to achieve peace and work for a Palestinian state,” she says. “When I give talks abroad, I am often not allowed to continue, because of my views on the peace process.”

As Dayan looks for something to wear for the photograph, I see that all her blouses and jackets are adorned with a peace dove pin. “Shula and I started that even before Oslo,” she says, referring to the veteran civil rights activist Shulamit Aloni. But she also keeps a pistol in the apartment and visits a shooting range regularly.

What’s with the pistol?

“That’s the way we are. My mother has a pistol in the car. My pistol was a present from my uncle, Ezer Weizman.”

On what occasion? The wedding?

“I don’t remember when. I imagine I saw the pistol in his home and admired it, because it is a very fine piece, and he gave it to me as a gift.”

No, she does not want her photograph taken with the pistol. The almost obligatory photo in front of a striking portrait of her father, Moshe Dayan, by the painter Uri Lifschitz, is very difficult for her, and understandably so. She has long been more than her father’s daughter. Indeed, she was no longer in that category at the time she published her book “My Father, His Daughter” ‏(English edition, 1985‏), which she describes as “a double biography: of him, of me and of the relations between us. I published it after his death, and then I also stopped settling accounts with him.”

Coming up for air

At 73, despite her illness, Dayan looks fine. As the years pass, her resemblance to her father seems to become more pronounced. She takes the oxygen mostly in private, when she is alone at home. “I found that if I go to the next room quickly I need to hook up to the oxygen when I come back. But if I do it slowly I can go on without it. My coming to terms with the illness has a dividend: Now I am in competition not with time but with the oxygen. In contrast, when I sit, talk, manage the extraordinarily violent municipal council for four hours at a time I don’t feel a thing. I am not short of breath and I don’t go to the bathroom. The council meetings are exhausting and aggressive. I use the gavel all the time, but there is shouting and they grab the microphone and scream at me to resign. But even amid all that noise I don’t feel the need for oxygen.”

The wonders of adrenaline?

“Maybe. But I have learned how to live with the disease. I take the oxygen everywhere, even on trips with peace delegations to Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] and Palestinian activists and when I fly abroad to give talks − though I am not invited all that much, because these days the Jewish organizations invite people who hold views less radical than mine. There is no problem with oxygen on the flights, but since I fell ill I am no longer the great tourist I used to be. I prefer to vacation on cruises. There is plenty of fresh air and a lot more time to rest.”

This year she will spend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on a cruise in the Adriatic and the Black Sea, “and the day after Yom Kippur we will anchor again in Venice. So the timing is perfect.”

In 1992, when she was first elected to the Knesset, on the Labor Party ticket, she caused a minor scandal when she was photographed in a bikini on the Tel Aviv beach on Yom Kippur. She told a newspaper that she had nothing to be ashamed of, because she had an excellent body and did not have cellulite. In that interview she also spoke about the difficulties she encountered as an active young woman who found herself looking after an elderly, sick husband. She remembers Sion, who died in 2003 from Parkinson’s, with great love, tremendous esteem and deep longing.

But even before entering politics, Dayan was considered a scandal-ridden woman. Her father’s amorous escapades were grist for the mill in the gossip columns. She herself, who was 20-something, was viewed as a member of the jet set; she was a fixture at parties thrown by the glitterati abroad and had love affairs with celebrities. The novels she published earned her the title of “the Israeli Francoise Sagan” in the international press.

“Well,” she says, “that’s because she and I had the same publisher and we had joint book launches in Cannes and in Paris. I knew Francoise well. She was terribly confused. We autographed books together, and the critics also often wrote about the two of us together. It all seems so archaic now, but we were two young women who wrote a little about sex, which was considered a breakthrough at the time.”

Dayan’s first novel, “New Face in the Mirror” ‏(1959‏), made the biggest splash. Largely autobiographical, it describes affairs she had with comrades-in-arms of her father the general. She wrote the book, and most of those that followed, in English, because she wanted them to be read abroad. ‏(She then translated them into Hebrew herself.‏) Her other novels are “Envy the Frightened” ‏(1961‏), “Dust” ‏(1963‏), “Death Had Two Sons” ‏(1967‏) and “Three Weeks in the Fall” ‏(1979‏). That was followed by the nonfiction “My Father, His Daughter.”

The last book she published was a collection of opinion pieces she wrote for various newspapers ‏(1992, in Hebrew‏). “Since then the only things I have autographed are laws and checks,” she jokes, but now she wants to take up writing again. “I would like to be able to write another book,” she says. “I have beginnings of books. It’s been many years since I wrote real literature, but I have started all kinds of books. I am hesitant, because even though what I write is good, it reverts to the personal, as though being a continuation of ‘My Father, His Daughter.’ I find it problematic to expose people I know in writing. So what will I do − let them censor me or wait until 30 years after my death for publication? That will not give me satisfaction, but I will write in order to leave a clean desk and I will let others decide about publication, after my death. But that is not truly satisfactory. I feel I have not yet left the footprint I want to leave in the world: A few toes are missing.”

Writing the book is on the list of tasks she includes under the rubric “managing to clear the desk.” What she means is that the disease is signaling to her that time is of the essence. “That is perhaps true for many people at a certain age,” she notes, “but the worst thing about my disease is that it is progressive and there is no way to stop it. I had treatment that involved attaching the atrophied sections of the lungs. It didn’t work.”

Why don’t you have a lung transplant?

“Because I am the wrong age. Lung transplants are done until the age of 65.”

Why? Because you are supposed to die at 66?

“No. Priority is given to younger people, and rightly so.”

She brought the disease on herself by years of heavy smoking. “There are cases of emphysema that are not caused by smoking,” she says, “but in my case it is clear. I have become an expert in the field, the spokeswoman for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People call me to ask where I got the mobile oxygen tank and to consult with me about all sorts of problems. Early diagnosis of COPD is very important, but the doctors don’t always know how to go about it. Many times they make do with an x-ray, which does not show the disease. You need to have a lung-function test. I am not a missionary and never was, but I say that the most important prevention is never to start smoking in the first place. Still, I am already older than my father was when he died.”

Moshe Dayan died 31 years ago, at the age of 66. “My brother Assi always says, ‘At least I have passed Dad in age.’ So have I. But of the three of us, only Udi is a healthy hunk who never smoked and was in the naval commandos and took over the farm in Nahalal [the cooperative village where Moshe Dayan was born] and lost it and moved onto a yacht and lost that too, and now lives with his girlfriend in Tel Aviv and is a full-time sculptor.”

Head of the family

Dayan was and remains the responsible big sister, the only one of the three siblings who does not need help from their mother. “I had excellent parents from my perspective, but I myself was a parental substitute for Udi and Assi,” she says. Assi savaged her for taking that role. “Assi says the worst things about my mother, but at the same time he is the most loving and most attached son. In our family there is always a contrast between feelings and behavior. I think that settling accounts like that, and especially after the age of 60, is a type of self-pampering. Why shouldn’t we ask if we were good children to our parents? But Assi has been settling accounts with our parents all his life. He wrote the most awful things about me and about my mother, and also the most wonderful things. So where is the truth? And there is also the element of need, which he doesn’t want to admit − his need to shelter under my wing.”

But look how your mother puts up with it and continues to take care of him.

“Yes, she insists on it. We are trying to persuade her to share the burden with us. But now Assi’s children [from his first marriage], Amalia and Avner, are supporting him economically.”

Ten years after her husband’s death, Yael Dayan is now effectively the head of the family. “I am in favor of pampering and bribery [in the family]. I don’t want them looking at everything and asking themselves when it will be theirs,” she says. Implicit in her words is the grief caused by her father, who left his entire estate, including his vast archaeology collection, to his second wife, Rachel, and cut the three children out of the will. She meets Rachel at the annual state memorial ceremony for Moshe Dayan.

“The memorial ceremony is not held on the date of my father’s death. I attend it, but my mother visits the grave on a different day. In general, though, I don’t invest so much in anniversaries and memorial ceremonies and visiting graves. I am a lot more into birthdays and invest a great deal in them.

“The question is whether knowledge of approaching death paralyzes you or spurs you to activity,” she says. “I still want to do things. I want to amend some of the laws I enacted. For example, I would amend the law against sexual harassment so that complaints can be filed even after two years; in other words, reduce the statute of limitations on offenses of sexual harassment. We also stipulated in the law against sexual harassment that damages can be claimed even without proving damage. That is all in my resume.”

She adds, “I was in the Knesset for 11 years, from 1992 until 2003, and I would not want another term now as a gift. I think I was lucky. In my years as an MK I had partners and mentors like Shula Aloni. But who would I forge a partnership with today? I tried to be in touch with the committee on the status of women, headed by [Likud MK] Tzipi Hotovely, on the subject of egg donation and also about granting family status to gays, but above all on the great issue of peace and war.”

Who, then, would you be able to work with in the present Knesset?

“Even in [Ehud] Olmert’s coalition there were more possibilities. These days it is certainly more difficult for a woman to be a Knesset member and show loyalty to a government that includes [Avigdor] Lieberman and Eli Yishai. It’s a government whose constellation has no ambitions in all the areas that are important to me: peace, women’s status, refugees. The formula of ultra-Orthodox and nationalists is a historical abomination.”

The poet across the hall

As a child, Dayan’s homes were dictated by her father’s army career. She attended school in Nahalal, the first moshav, one of whose founders was her grandfather, and also in Jerusalem and even in Haifa, before the family finally settled in Zahala, a north Tel Aviv neighborhood built for army officers. Her boyfriend in high school was Arik Einstein, who afterward became an iconic singer. The two frequented Cafe Kasit, on Dizengoff Street, the hangout of bohemian society of the time.

“Arik, who was as charming then as he is today, had a slightly cynical but goodhearted sense of humor,” she recalls. “His father was an actor in the Ohel Troupe, so he was like one of the family at Kasit. That’s where I met [Natan] Alterman, for whose poems I still have an obsession. A giant of a poet. I knew his poems before I met him.

“In Nahalal, Dad and I walked around the circle [the village is built in concentric circles] reciting poems by [Avraham] Shlonsky and Alterman. My father was a great reader. He read everything. When he started to engage in archaeology he read professional literature. He taught himself hieroglyphics and cuneiform script. I also read a lot, but in poetry I have an obsession for two poets, Natan Alterman and Dahlia Ravikovitch. Dahlia was also a close friend, and even now, seven years after her death, I miss her very much. She was a friend I could talk to with perfect openness about everything.”

Do you think she committed suicide?

“No, and if someone had been there with her, she would have been saved. I don’t think Dahlia committed suicide. I know, because in all her attempts she either phoned me to come at any hour − I had a key to her apartment and we were neighbors, after all − or she left a note. I have a stack of notes: all her suicide notes.”

Dayan met Ravikovitch, considered one of Israel’s greatest poets, when they both wrote for the children’s magazine of Davar, the ‏(now defunct‏) socialist daily and government mouthpiece. “We didn’t sign articles with our surname. [The artist and writer] Nachum Gutman signed his work ‘Nachum,’ Dahlia also used her first name, and I signed my column, which was about international events, ‘Yael.’ Dahlia published poems, which I liked very much, but I got to know her better after she published ‘The Love of an Orange,’ her first book of poems. I loved her work very much. We became very close friends when she asked me to help her get out of a coerced hospitalization.

“I did what was needed and finally they discharged her on condition that I take responsibility for her and that she would live with us. She stayed with us for a time; Dov also liked her very much. When he was sick and sometimes had hallucinations, he would tell me happily, ‘Dahlia visited me.’ She really did visit him a lot, but he also said that even when she didn’t visit.”

In addition to the collection of Ravikovitch’s suicide notes, Dayan has a collection of letters Ariel Sharon wrote to Sion. “Arik and Dov were very close,” she says. “When I was moving and found the letters, I called Omri [Sharon’s son] to ask if he wanted them. The ownership of letters − whether they belong to the recipient or the writer − is a moral question. These are very personal letters and contain humorous comments about all kinds of army people whom Arik and Dov knew. Most of them date from the period when Arik was in London at some staff school with Margalit [his wife] and Gur, his son, who was later killed. This was before Lily [his second wife]. They are lovely letters. Arik and Margalit lived opposite us in Zahala. I barely knew Margalit, but got to know Lily a little better. Arik and Ben-Gurion were Dov’s two best friends. Dov was also a very good friend of [David Ben-Gurion’s daughter] Renana.”

Secret sharer

As a girl and a teenager Dayan read newspaper accounts of her father’s love affairs. “I read them and he also told me. I don’t know how good or how bad that kind of open parenting is. When your father tells you, it creates a closeness based on candor, but when you grow up you realize it’s terrible. It’s flattering at that moment, but it’s not good and not healthy. There is nothing positive about it. Naturally, I felt awful for my mother, and this went on for many years. Still, I thought it was not a good thing when my mother decided to get a divorce. It had gone on for so many years and she had lived with it so long and was the center of the whole Dayan family − there are values worth preserving for the sense of togetherness. We were already grown, with children, and the connecting glue was our parents’ home. But apparently the suffering was too great for her to bear.”

How could anyone live with a husband who cheats on you all the time?

“For my part, I looked for someone very different from my father as a husband. You could say I chose a person who was his opposite. Arik [Sharon], who was Dov’s best friend, described his need for friendship with Dov on the same basis, namely that he had everything that Arik didn’t have: European culture and education, a deep view of things and absolute fairness. That is also the opposite of my father.

“I met Dov during the Six-Day War in Arik’s command post. I was a reservist in the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Unit. Dov was almost 50 years old. He wasn’t married but had quite a few girlfriends. His reputation was impeccable. He was not from my parents’ generation or from their cultural milieu. He was a very intriguing combination of things. He didn’t want to tell me where he was from. He told me he was from Finland and I believed him.

“Arik told me, ‘Beware of him, he was in the Mossad, don’t believe a word he says.’ Dov was born in Czechoslovakia, near the Russian Carpathians. He immigrated to Palestine in 1939, but his family stayed behind and perished. He told me that when his parents parted with him at the train station in Prague, his mother cried because he was going to a dangerous country, and what if he didn’t come back. A few months later, his whole family was murdered. It’s an incomprehensible loss, and he was always hounded by a feeling of guilt.

“When we met, he told me he didn’t want children. That was a product of the fear. And he really was a very fearful parent. The fear became a layer of his being. He was very much against school visits to concentration camps, and my children did not go [referring to organized visits by Israeli high-school students to death camps and concentration camps as part of the curriculum]. I too am against those trips, but for other reasons. They are very expensive, and parents who can’t afford it are ashamed to ask for help but can’t withstand the pressure from the children and end up paying for the trips. I say that if the government of Israel thinks it’s important to take children to the concentration camps, it should pay for the trips in the same way it funds ‘heritage excursions’ to the territories, for example.

“Dov was 82 when he died. He was five years younger than my mother and three years younger than my father. He was sick for about 10 years. When I was in the Knesset there was a caregiver at home and he more or less functioned. He went out and kept up with things until the Parkinson’s reached his head and brought on a type of dementia. Dementia is deceptive. It’s there and it’s not there. It’s elusive. It also generates hallucinations. He was in hospital in his last weeks and the doctor told me frankly that nothing could be done, that he would die from a collapse of the body’s systems one after the other.

“I knew it was a terrible death and that maybe it was not moral of me to let him die in such agony, but of course I never imagined doing anything. I think that if a person does not express an overt desire about what he wants done if he is no longer capable of deciding, it is wrong for anyone else to decide for him. I say this about Arik Sharon as well. If he did not express a desire to end his life in case of a particular physical or mental situation, then it is absolutely wrong to contemplate it.”

In what situation would you not want to go on living?

“A state of cognitive deficiency. That is why I am constantly filling out forms about the conditions in which I do not want to be revived. But my children say they do not intend to take my wish into account. For my part, I am making all the preparations for my life not to be extended needlessly. The problem is that even when I am in a fully aware state, I express a desire for my life not to be extended. In a state of cognitive deficiency it’s possible that when the time comes, my children will decide that this is not really what I intended. Dov, for example, was totally out of it, but it was clear that no one would hasten his death because he never expressed such a wish. But people who visited him would say to me, ‘He is better off dead than alive.’ How could they know?”

Did you never consider another man in his place?

“No. I also don’t feel a lack in that regard. I don’t feel I would want to go hunting and also don’t think that anyone is looking for me as a partner. It is not the lack of a relationship that makes me feel lonely; there is something very pleasant about being master of one’s immediate surroundings. What I lack is the dialogue, the closeness. Girlfriends are well and good, but I never found a replacement for Dahlia, who I could talk to about everything. Even her lack of response or naive response made me feel good. But I have girlfriends. I am also able to go places alone and enjoy it, which I do all over the world. Going on a cruise alone or going to a matinee on Saturday − I have no problem with that. There are things I no longer do in any case. My disease imposes some limitations. Going to the beach, for example, is a project.”

Force of fear

Dayan was deputy mayor of Tel Aviv in the previous administration of Mayor Ron Huldai. She started her municipal career as a representative of Meretz, but later the party showed her the door. “They told me they wanted to move to the opposition and I was against that. If so, they said, we will go into the opposition without you. Then elections were held in Meretz and I found myself outside. In the last elections I ran as an independent on Huldai’s ticket.”

Do you see yourself running for the municipal council again?

“I don’t know if I will run in the next elections. As there is a separate faction of pensioners, I would like to find some scheme to join them. The question is always whether you lose or gain by running together.”

Do you like your municipal work?

“Yes, though I would prefer if there were remuneration for it. Still, it’s very nice that I have an office and a secretary and a computer and a parking place. The idea of remunerating council members − so they will do the job better − has been floating around in the Knesset for many years. From my viewpoint, the work in the municipality is about implementing laws and regulations I enacted in the Knesset. I work like a welfare bureau in terms of personal requests that come in and try to solve things for people. Smadar, my bureau chief, accompanies people to the property tax department. I try to help. But I am routed by the religious. Jews and half-Jews and non-Jews who want to marry come to me for help, and it’s a crying shame that I have to advise them to hold the wedding in Cyprus.”

Don’t you preside at marriage ceremonies?

“No. After all, it isn’t real. A ceremony like that has no legal meaning; all it does is perhaps create a pleasant illusion. I did it once or twice and then stopped. The only solution is for civil marriage to be allowed here.”

Do you see that on the horizon?

“Less and less, and certainly not with this government.”

In the previous administration Dayan held the social welfare portfolio, which included handling refugees. “But in this term, no one wanted that portfolio, least of all the council members from Meretz. The result is that I deal with those issues as far as I am able, but without any budget or powers. We help mainly through Mesila, an aid organization for refugees, and through Lasova, an NGO that provides two hot meals a day for them. I fought with all my might for the refugees to be allowed to work, because without work they cannot go on living. I was unsuccessful. But I did succeed in ensuring that no employer would be fined for hiring refugees or illegal migrants.”

How does that sit with the policy of Interior Minister Yishai?

“Eli Yishai, who I of course oppose with all my heart and mind, worries me less in the municipal context than the ultra-Orthodox and Likud members of the council, especially councilman Shlomo Maslawi, who is in favor of judaizing Jaffa and above all wants the ‘black stain,’ as he calls it, to be removed from our city. I am very worried by the way these people are injecting their outlook into the lower-class neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv and taking part in racist demonstrations. But I have no way to fight them. Not because of the subject as such, but because the demonstrators in those neighborhoods associate me with [the late Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat and with Gaza and now with the fear of Iran. People who could agree with me on civil rights issues are afraid of me because of my political approach. The same thing happens abroad.

“Where the left was least successful was in its inability to create a differentiation between human rights and state-political issues. This is obvious now, when instilling fear is the engine that drives everything here. The strange thing is that these scared people then go ahead and back the very ideology that is making them afraid. Now it is the Iranian issue. My whole rationale and worldview say that I will not allow myself to fall prey to fear. I, along with the Jews and with Israel, have undergone truly frightening things, but now the fear is an alibi for other things. I refer to a war of choice, or an attack of choice, in order to do something that is uncertain, unclear and unnecessary. It is all fear-driven.

“A war of our choosing always ends in catastrophe. Today, in retrospect, I know that the Six-Day War was also a war of choice in many senses. I try to give my father credit for making an effort to delay the entry into the Old City of Jerusalem and for afterward preventing the entry into the Tomb of the Patriarchs [in Hebron] and for not allowing the Israeli flag to be hoisted on the Temple Mount. He also physically pulled down Rabbi Goren [the army’s chief rabbi at the time], who wanted to hoist the Israeli flag above Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

In the past year, Dayan has been making her voice heard in a group organized by the writer and left-wing activist Sefi Rachlevsky, whose members include Israel Prize laureates in various fields. “You can tell me a thousand times that in the polling booth there is no difference between the vote of the shoemaker and the vote of the professor − but in the public square there is,” Dayan says. The group recently met with Abbas in Ramallah.

Another soldier born

What, in your view, is the reason that Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich has not said a word about the possibility of an attack on Iran?

“I don’t know. I have to say that when she was elected head of Labor I joined the party and met with her. My impression was that she would do nothing and certainly not submit security issues for debate in the Knesset.”

Can you understand the rationale behind the behavior of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in terms of war declarations?

“I am very cautious on this, in part because I am aware of my father’s contribution to Israel’s wars. Still, I am unable to find a rationale, certainly not one that takes into account our relations with the United States and the rest of the world and the nonexistent peace that exists between us and the Palestinians. Barak and Netanyahu are said to know things that we do not know, but I don’t accept that. It’s a deception. If they have that information, let them pass it on to us. This war will implicate us all, and the fact is that the entire defense establishment is against it. The American establishment is also 100 percent against.

“So the only explanation I have is their worldview, which I see as a malignant disease: a worldview of victimization. That approach says we exist only insofar as we are victims. Menachem Begin reinvented this approach when he ordered the attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and evoked the Holocaust, but we are not there. Bibi too has been drawing all kinds of analogies with the Holocaust lately. That works very well on American Jews for fund-raising. But it is a mistaken outlook.”

Dayan adds that for her, the issue of victimization “links up to another issue: Our only importance as women is as multiparas, to give birth to soldiers. When I gave birth, ultrasound was not yet in use and husbands were not present at the birth because there was no epidural and it hurt, it hurt. They brought in the professors who were my gynecologists and there was also a midwife, and when the boy entered the world one of the nurses said, ‘We have another soldier.’ That stayed with me. My father brought me a gift of an ancient statuette of a lioness with a cub between her legs. The concept of ‘another soldier has been born’ is very hard to accept. Well, 45 years ago we said, ‘By the time he is 18 there won’t be any more wars.’ But the fact is that there were wars and maybe there will be another one. In the meantime, we are living in a place where your greatest importance as a woman is to be able to bring more soldiers into the world for unnecessary wars. Tell me, do you have many friends who are in favor of attacking Iran?”

Not one.

“I also don’t know anyone who is in favor, but Barak and Netanyahu keep scaring us all the time. It’s all one package: It comes back to fear and to the Begin-like use of the idea of being victims. You know, there was a time when no one here called soldiers ‘Nazis.’ These days the ultra-Orthodox call them that without hesitation. Everyone who is against us is a Nazi. I think that Bibi and his father devised the gimmick of using fear as a unifying element. Bibi cultivates the existential issue and the fear of a second Holocaust, and Barak works on the national muscle-flexing.”

Maybe we should flee to Jerusalem?

“And what if the Iranians are off-target? Who says Jerusalem will not be hit? By the way, why do the settlers think nothing will happen to them either − because of the Palestinians around them? And if they miss the target? I’ve heard people say they will flee abroad, but there won’t be any flights, so all they will be able to do is swim to Cyprus and hope the errant missiles don’t hit them on the way. The most important and most urgent thing that needs to be done is to divert the panic in a different direction. We need to go into the streets and demonstrate and protest and avert that fate. I have high regard for [President Shimon] Peres, who spoke out against the idea of attacking Iran. Now I ask myself how to persuade him to come to the square under my house and protest, and how I, with my cane and oxygen, can see to it that the square will be filled with demonstrators.”

Kobi Kalmanovich