|Directed by:||Paul Jenkins||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||2004||Running Time:||58 mins|
|More Info:||Wikipedia on Moshe Dayan||Category:||Israel|
At the dawn of modern Israel, Moshe Dayan was the face of the nation and an international celebrity. Slaves of the Sword: Moshe Dayan profiles the controversial man behind the military uniform to reveal what he was really like through the eyes of his admirers, critics, and family who knew him best.
“I don’t know anything which is more exciting than war,” Moshe Dayan tells the camera, as he sits back in his chair and flashes a cocky smile, “really, when you think about life…what could be more exciting?”
The modern State of Israel was birthed out of war and has only known brief periods of peace since then. As a general and politician, Moshe Dayan led Israel during its formative battle years. Slaves of the Sword takes an intimate look at a man whose victories intoxicated the Israeli people with optimism and national pride. In an intimate interview, Israel’s current president Shimon Peres, former U.S. secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Israeli activist Uri Avnery, Dayan’s son and many other influential personalities who knew Dayan share their impressions of a man who was reckless, brilliant and bold enough to shape history.
To say the least, Dayan was a character, an enfant terrible who kept politicians on their toes with candid, unorthodox remarks. Rumors circulated about his affairs with women, and his true passion was archeology: his incredible personal collection of ancient findings included 39 antipodes — which were spread out across his yard.
None of the interviewees entirely agree on what to make of Dayan. While his son compares his charismatic cynicism to Clint Eastwood, a journalist who interviewed him has a very different impression. Expecting to meet a sexy war hero, was disappointed to meet a “fattish man with a patch.” And Dayan’s ex-wife says she never saw him as a general at all–to her he was always a farmer.
But one trait that everyone agrees on and is proven in archival footage of Dayan is that he was charming — very charming — and even his harshest critics admit it. With mischievous eyes and a confident smile, Dayan draws in his audience and quietly commands any scene of which he’s a part. When a brief clip of archival footage shows him washing his face at an outdoor pump, it seems like a mundane task, but there’s something about his swagger that makes watching him dry his face and comb back his hair entirely captivating.
It wasn’t just his winning smile that made Dayan appealing. “You had Jews who were for 2,000 years kicked around all over the world. Totally helpless,” a journalist says, “and suddenly you have Jewish generals! And you are militarily victorious!” This strength and sense of power that Dayan inspired in Israelis and Jews from around the world had everything to do with his popularity.
But not everyone believes that Israel’s sudden full-scale dominance was a total blessing. “The victory was too big, too fast,” says the current President of Israel Shimon Peres, “It intoxicated us.”
Harsher critics side with the Palestinian people and argue that Dayan didn’t do enough for them. “Dayan didn’t plan anything,” Uri Avnery says critically, “He couldn’t understand the Arab psyche.”
But maybe Dayan is best explained through his own words. In later life, the politician also tried his hand at poetry, and a year before his death he wrote, At the End of Days: “I followed my own path, never exposing my grief and joy. I lift my own life,” the poem reads with a sober humility. “Only two things I could do: sow, plow, and reap the wheat and fight back the guns threatening our homes.”
History might remember him as a celebrated symbol of Israel’s authority, but as far as Dayan himself was concerned he was simply a farmer who defended the land he loved.