Activity General Moshe Dayan Eulogy for Roy Rotenberg (1956) Source

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Activity 9. General Moshe Dayan Eulogy for Roy Rotenberg (1956) 

Source: Benny Morris (1997). Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956 (New York: Oxford 

University Press), p. 396 

Background: Roy Rotenberg was an Israeli security officer stationed along the border 

between Israel and Gaza who died in 1956 during what has come to be known as the 

Second Arab-Israeli War. At the time, General Moshe Dayan was the Chief of Staff, or 

military head, of the Israeli armed forces. Dayan attended the funeral in Rotenberg’s 

hometown, the farming settlement (kibbutz) Nahal-Oz, and delivered the eulogy. 

Palestinian Arab nationalists and Israeli Jewish Zionists both claimed the same territory 

as their homeland and each had a long list of grievances against the other group. 

Rotenberg frequently patrolled the border and he was known to have attacked and injured 

Arabs who either intentionally or unintentionally closed the line. Much of the statement 

by Dayan is a defense of Israeli actions. However he makes some interesting comments 

on the motives of his Arab enemies. Read the excerpts from his speech and answer 

questions 1 – 7. 

 “Yesterday at dawn Roy was murdered. The quiet of the spring morning blinded him, 

and he did not see those who sought his life hiding behind the furrow. Let us not today 

cast blame on the murderers. What can we say against their terrible hatred of us? For 

eight years now, they have sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and have watched how

before their very eyes we have turned their land and villages, where they and their 

forefathers previously dwelled, into our home. It is not among the Arabs of Gaza, but in 

our own midst that we must seek Roy’s blood. How did we shut our eyes and refuse to 

look squarely at our fate and see, in all its brutality, the fate of our generation? Can we 

forget that this group of youngsters sitting in Nahal-Oz, carries the heavy gates of Gaza 

on their shoulders? 

Beyond the furrow of the border surges a sea of hatred and revenge; revenge that 

looks towards the day when the calm will blunt our alertness, the day when we shall 

listen to the ambassadors of malign hypocrisy who call upon us to lay down our arms. To 

us and us alone cries out Roy’s blood, from his mangled body. Because we swore a 

thousand times that our blood will not be spilled lightly – and yet again yesterday we 

were tempted, we listened, and we believed. 

Let us take stock today with ourselves. We are a generation of settlement and without 

the steel helmet and the gun’s muzzle we will not be able to plant a tree and build a 

house. Let us not fear to look squarely at the hatred that consumes and fills the lives of 

hundreds of Arabs who live around us. Let us not drop our gaze, lest our arms be weaken. 

That is the fate of our generation. This is our choice – to be ready and armed, tough and 

hard – or else the sword shall fall from our hands and our lives will be cut short. 

Young Roy, who went forth from Tel Aviv to build his home at the gates of Gaza to 

be a bulwark for his people - the light in his heart blinded his sight and he failed to see 

the sword’s flash. The longing for peace deafened his ears and he failed to hear the voice 

of the murderer waiting in ambush. The gates of Gaza proved too heavy for his shoulders, 

and overcame him.” 


1. Who does Dayan see as Israel’s most dangerous “enemy”? 

2. What warning does Dayan issue to the mourners? 

3. Why does Dayan ask the mourners not to blame the murders?  

4. The Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews have many grievances against each other. In 

your opinion, is it useful to assess blame in a conflict such as this one? Explain. 

5. How would you respond to an Arab spokesperson that argues that the Israelis are 

Europeans displaced by World War II who are occupying Arab lands? 

6. How would you respond to an Israeli spokesperson that claims Jews have a historic 

right to this land because they lived here in biblical times?  

7. In your opinion, can such a seemly intractable conflict as the clash between the 

Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis be resolved? Explain. 


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