Windows to his soulWindows to his soul

Letters describing Dayan losing his eye to be auctioned

Bidding to start at $75,000 on trove including letter in which former defense minister pleads to reenlist in British army

Moshe Dayan, June 1981. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Moshe Dayan, June 1981. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

An archive of letters detailing former Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan’s struggle to enlist in the British army after the loss of his left eye is to set be auctioned this week.

The archive includes letters written by Dayan detailing the incident, correspondence between Dayan and British army officials and a hospital bill for a follow-up surgery to repair Dayan’s injuries.

Bidding on the trove is planned to start at $75,000 when it goes under the hammer on Thursday, according to Los Angeles-based dealer Nate D. Sanders, which is auctioning off the archive.

Dayan, who died in 1981, lost his left eye in 1941 while fighting in Syria in World War II against Vichy French troops for the Australian 7th Division of the British army and famously wore a black eye patch to cover up the injury.

In one of the letters, Dayan pleaded with his commander, British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, to be reenlisted after having lost his eye, reassuring him that he had recovered from the injury.

“I wish to beg of you to help me to be received to the Cadre Squad of the Palestinian Forces in Sarafend although I have lost one of my eyes,” Dayan wrote.

Archive of letters detailing Moshe Dayan losing his eye in battle (Nate D. Sanders)
Archive of letters detailing Moshe Dayan losing his eye in battle (Nate D. Sanders)

“Now that I have almost finished my medical treatment, I feel I am quite fit again to serve in the Army and I ask therefore to be considered as if I were wounded while being a registered soldier and to give me the opportunity to carry on til the end.”

Dayan’s hospital bill for follow-up surgery on his eye was among the documents that was set to go on sale. The bill from a Paris hospital is dated January 28, 1947, and is for the cost of 12.389 francs.

Dayan’s injury was such that he could not be fitted with a glass eye, and having to wear an eye patch caused him great psychological distress.

“I was ready to make any effort and stand any suffering, if only I could get rid of my black eye patch. The attention it drew was intolerable to me. I preferred to shut myself up at home, doing anything, rather than encounter the reactions of people wherever I went,” wrote Dayan in his autobiography.

A handwritten incident report on the fighting in which Dayan lost his eye was also among the also items to be auctioned. In the report, Dayan describes accepting the orders from his superior to be officer of his unit and the details of the mission.

Dayan fought in the pre-state Haganah and the British army, and served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces.

After a career in the military, Dayan entered politics and become an international symbol of the new state of Israel when he served as defense minister under prime minister Levi Eshkol during the Six Day Way. Dayan later served as foreign affairs minister under prime minister Menachem Begin.

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