Today in history: Yigal Alon

Today in 1980, Yigal Alon, one of the most senior generals and politicians in Israel’s history, died unexpectedly.

Alon was born into a pioneer family of European descent in the village of Kfar Tavor, 1918, and received a Zionist education. In his youth he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Ginosar, where he met Ruth Episdorf, whom he married at the age of 20, (having 2 daughters and a son). During this period, at the end of the 30s, Alon joined the new ‘Palmach’ Para-Military organization, and was one of the most prominent in its ranks, under the personal mentoring of Yitzhak Sadeh together with Moshe Dayan – his rival in the Palmach and later in politics. Alon proved a great deal of talent in military strategy and management, as he quickly climbed up and became the Palmach commander in 1943. At the outbreak of the War of Independence, Yigal Alon was one of the most important generals in Israel, and commanded some of the most important operations in the war – such as Yiftach (holding the Hula Valley and conquering Safed), Dani (conquering Lod and Ramle), Yoav (conquering Be’er Sheva) and Horev (conquering Rafah and breaking the Egyptian army).

Alon ended the war as the Chief of the Southern Command, but was stuck at this stage due to political friction, and went to study abroad for several years. His popularity among the fighters of the 1948 generation was great, and he was elected to the Knesset in 1955 on behalf of Mapai. In 1961 he became Minister of Labor and remained in office until 1968; during the Six-Day War he was a member of the ‘Committee of Three’ (together with Dayan and Yigal Yadin), which advised Prime Minister Eshkol and effectively conducted the war. Upon Eshkol’s death in 1969, he succeeded him for several weeks (as a deputy prime minister), and prepared for a race to the prime ministership against Dayan. But many in the ‘Maarach’ party feared that this would lead to division, and Golda Meir was chosen as a compromise candidate.

Under Golda, Alon served as Minister of Education, and was a senior partner in the management of the Yom Kipur war. In 1974, Golda resigned, and the party leaders preferred to choose someone who had nothing to do with the war at all – Yitzhak Rabin, under whom Alon was appointed Foreign Minister. It was a challenging and stressful time in the diplomatic arena, and Alon managed to contain many negative processes for Israel. After the 1977 election Alon found himself in opposition, and many in the party began to stand behind him as a party representative in the 1981 election. But Alon died unexpectedly in 1980, leaving behind a grand yet unfinished military and political legacy.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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