Yael Dayan (Hebrew: יעל דיין, 12 February 1939 – 18 May 2024), also known as Yaël Dayan, was an Israeli politician and author. She was the daughter of Moshe Dayan.

Yael Dayan in 1992


  • I thought everything was fine in our country, because I thought everything was fine for me. But on my visits to the United States, I began to understand the oppression of women. And as I became more aware, I realized that feminism is a way of life. Feminism isn’t only about support for women; it’s about support for everyone who is victimized or marginalized. I accepted that way of life.
  • In her 2014 memoir, Dayan wrote that during her lifetime, she witnessed Israel transform from “a beloved, admired, victorious and just homeland, via an unbearable regression, to the dangerous sphere of ethno-theocratic messianic existence, which is so far removed from a peace- and justice-seeking society.
    • Transitions (2014) translated into English by Maya Klein, quoted by Amy Spiro here
  • For all the progress that has been made, the same old hypocritical notions are still used to fight gender equality.
  • Cases of corruption come and go; the public anger they generate is inevitably diluted by the slow pace at which the legal system delivers justice. All the while, the country stays wrapped in a near-permanent bulletproof vest, preparing for the next war even as we recover from the last one.
  • For years, we have believed Israel to be a country whose vast military power is tempered by moral strength, supported by social solidarity and guided by well-balanced leadership. The recent war with Hezbollah shattered, at great cost, what was left of this belief. However, to my perhaps overly optimistic eyes, the war may have finally taught us — for the better — the limits of power. Just as a president and a Cabinet minister cannot resort to coercive persuasion when the charms they allegedly exercise fail to convince, so too the government and the military cannot continuously insist that where power has already failed more power will win.
  • It is inconceivable that we should still have to discuss the Palestinian right to self-determination,” she told The Star. “We are still doubting that they are people. This is so stupid, it is like an ostrich burying its head.
    • 1993 interview with Toronto Star, quoted here
  • We have not yet produced a universal literature in Israel, which doesn't detract from its quality...We are still in a localized phase, reflecting what is happening to us now, a mirror of reality.
  • The patriotism, idealism, the caring for others, the sense of involvement are still there, but on top of this is a layer called normalcy...One of the bases of Zionism was called 'normalization of the Jewish people.' This has become a matter of individual preference: videotapes, cars, gadgets. It gives the impression of a change in priorities. It will not last, if only because of the economics that will not allow it...Now that we have normalization and have built a country where my children can wear a Walkman and listen to Michael Jackson, we are complaining: Where is the spirit of Zionism? With the flood of American culture, we, like others, are losing something special of our own culture...With all that, I think we will also retain much.
  • Nothing will be the same now. I have looked at cessation of life, destruction of matter, sorrow of destroyers, agony of the victorious, and it had to leave a mark.
    • Israel Journal (1967), quoted here
  • Though the predominant ethos of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel has been enlightened — in both the liberal and socialist senses — large sections of the Israeli society, whether Jewish or Arab, are still strongly patriarchal in their social structure and traditional in their attitudes, with strong religious influences.
  • Given the level of education, professional talents and human qualities of Israeli women, it is difficult to understand why their presence is so sparse in the vital crossroads of Israel’s political life without taking into account the heterogeneity and complexity of Israeli society — a society, we shouldn’t forget, that is also struggling to attain peace and security. This social complexity forces those of us struggling to attain full gender equality in Israel to adopt a policy of compromise, bridging of gaps and patient educational work — rather than one of radical feminism, for which many of us may wish. The reality is that today in Israel, human and women’s rights are not yet fully accepted as normative, and are thus not adequately protected.
  • Our goal is clear — to attain full equality for women, to prevent discrimination, abuse and violence against them, and to empower and advance the female segment of the population. We believe that in so doing we are not only serving women, but are also strengthening Israeli democracy.
  • I have no doubt that once peace is attained in the Middle East, the struggle for the advancement of women and their equality will assume a high priority in our society, and become a subject of cooperation among women in the whole region.

Interview with Lilith (1990)

  • As I have become involved with the rights of all groups living in Israel, I’ve become more involved with women’s rights, too. Still, I think that women who are involved only in women’s rights are missing the point.
  • we have a macho, male society which is not only engaged militarily but is dominated by male tradition religiously and sociologically...Women need to be represented in politics, in lobbying, need to try to achieve legislation. We need to get more women into politics and into the Knesset.
  • Women lead the peace movement. They’ve definitely got positions of leadership there.
  • If we really can advance towards peace, I see this as a springboard for other changes. Peace and war are irreversible, but other things are less absolute. Since we don’t have a constitution, if there is a change in the law it can be undone later. So it wouldn’t bother me to go along on some concessions and then in better times, say, try and change them. If there is peace, a lot of wrongs will be corrected.
  • We started as a society of immigrants; the Palestinians started as people on their land. They’ve expected their state to be delivered to them by outside forces; we had to do it ourselves, and so on down the line. There is no comparison, neither in the time element nor in the content. The point is that they are not going to wait for 2,000 years to have a homeland. Where they are now is where we were before, and the way we demanded and got our rights, they deserve just as much.
  • (Do you think that, in general, the large portion of the occupied territories will be returned?) YD: Oh sure, excluding the territory around Jerusalem.
  • (How do you advise women who want to be part of the system making changes in present-day Israel? What can you say to women who want to enter politics?) YD: They have to work within the party system — every party — and on the national level with other parties. It cannot be only an effort within the party. The power of women has to be expressed by sheer numbers. It must be mobilization — whether it’s academic or grassroots.

Three Weeks in October (1979)

  • I finished working, satisfied with my new role as a victim, feeling slightly sorry for myself, somehow heroic. I wasn't just anybody, I was a betrayed woman. (chapter 4)
  • The country woke up on October 24, 1973, a Wednesday, as if it were a wedding day. Cease-fire was expected at any moment, and the words, "The war is over," though not yet uttered by anybody, were ringing in every heart. (beginning of chapter 7)
  • I sat and looked at the familiar living room. A low coffee table, four armchairs and a sofa, embroidered cushions and a whitewashed wall with two original paintings and a few lithographs. Yet, as my eyes examined the objects, I felt strangely out of place. As if the past few weeks had been spent in limbo, as if I were waking up from anesthesia, coming back to life from a shelter. I realized the paradox. I had escaped the war by plunging into the horrors of it. The burnt limbs and faces, the amputees, the invalids, the dead, they became abstract in the nightly duty, and the sound of guns and shells, the diving of aircraft and the roar of tanks advancing-this reality was so far away-sounds overcome and numbed by the silence of hospital corridors. I knew a terrible event had taken place, but I didn't feel it. People died, but I didn't know them. We claimed a victory, but I didn't rejoice in it, and when we were defeated at the beginning, I wasn't frightened. As if I weren't really there. (chapter 8)
  • All the intimacy in the world can't remove a slight sense of guilt when watching someone who isn't aware of being watched. (chapter 14)

Quotes about

  • Yael Dayan was an activist who rejected her father’s fate and life’s choice and sought peace. She spent her life making the country a better place for women, queer folks, refugees, Palestinians, everyone. Yael Dayan’s life describes a country growing more alive, with the passing of decades and generations, to human rights.
  • A new woman’s voice in the darkness belongs to Yael Dayan who seems recently to have undergone a feminist metamorphosis.
    • Barbara Harshav in Lilith (1990)
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