Heroes of Israel: Mordechai Bar-On

MordechaiBarOn_iconic-vert“It’s possible that the Jewish people were not educated and are not accustomed to feel… occupation,” proclaimed Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin days after the 1967 Six-Day War in a speech that was written by Mordechai Bar-On, the army’s Chief Education Officer at the time.

Bar-On, 88 and a historian, former NIF president, and peace activist, believes today that after almost 50 years of occupation many Israelis are still not used to the role and will learn to give up territory for a comprehensive diplomatic arrangement.

“What Rabin said on Mount Scopus, that the Jewish people are not used to the occupation, still applies today to thousands of soldiers, not to mention their parents who don’t want their children to engage in this illustrious profession,” Bar-On, also known as “Moreleh,” said recently while taking a break from writing his twelfth book.

The former officer who fought in the Givati Brigade at age 19 in 1948 went on to become a colonel and the Chief Education Officer in 1963. Three weeks after the 1967 war, Bar-On wrote Rabin’s famous speech at Mount Scopus that praised the military success but warned against Israelis occupying another people. The warning came as Israel was swept with euphoria over the military’s resounding victory over its Arab neighbours and the capture of so much land.

Bar-On was sure that the conquest of land in 1967 would clear the way for a comprehensive land-for-peace agreement. It was at a meeting of intellectuals in 1968 that Bar-On first realized the strength of the religious desire to hold onto “Greater Israel.”

The retired colonel and former Knesset Member believes Israel will give up West Bank territory for a comprehensive diplomatic arrangement.

“Morals are not just for bleeding-heart liberals,” Bar-On said from his house in Jerusalem. “Morals are the infrastructure for existence itself. I am sure that at some point there will be a Jewish majority here that will understand that there is no choice but to take the radical steps toward peace and no occupation.”

Photo Credit: Laurie Copans

May 2017