Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography

Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography

Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography

Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography


Born in 1918 into the fabric of Arab-Jewish frontier life at the foot of Mt. Tabor, Yigal Allon rose to become one of the founding figures of the state of Israel and an architect of its politics. In 1945 Allon became commander of the Palmah--an elite unit of the Haganah, the semilegal army of the Jewish community--during the struggle against the British for independence. In the 1947-49 War of Independence against local and invading Arab armies, he led the decisive battles that largely determined the borders of Israel. Paradoxically, his close lifelong relations with Arab neighbors did not prevent him from being a chief agent of their sizable displacement.

A bestseller in Israel and available now translated into English, Yigal Allon, Native Son is the only biography of this charismatic leader. The book focuses on Allon's life up to 1950, his clash with founding father David Ben-Gurion, the end of his military career, and the watershed in culture and character between the Jewish Yishuv and Israeli statehood. As a statesman in his more mature years, he formulated what became known as the "Allon Plan," which remains a viable blueprint for an eventual two-state partition between Israel and the Palestinians. Yet in the end, the promise Allon showed as a brilliant young military commander remained unfulfilled. The great dream of the Palmah generation was largely lost, and Allon's name became associated with the failed policies of the past.

The story of Allon's life frames the history of Israel, its relationship with its Arab neighbors, its culture and spirit. This important biography touches on matters--Israel's borders, refugees, military might--that remain very much alive today.


Yigal Allon was the man and mark of a generation: the generation bred in Eretz Israel during the struggle for Jewish statehood. This book is dedicated to him and his era, when he and his peers in the elite Palmah fashioned the country’s first youth culture, setting the tone for those who came after.

“Palmahniks” were neither highbrow nor cultivated but a young brigade of daring volunteers. Apart from a handful of writers and poets who sprang up from within, most had little use for the trappings of culture or social graces. and yet their defining experience, which was to stay with them throughout their lives, became the cultural inspiration of the young. the type of person spawned by the Palmah was not without fault. There was about them a callow rawness, an upstart’s brashness, the shallowness of men of action, the intolerance of the self-absorbed. They judged both themselves and others mercilessly, knowing no compassion. Yet they were also capable of openness and high-flying idealism, extraordinary acts of friendship and comradeship, reticence and loftiness, humility and dedication. They had a measure of pride that in their youth took the form of arrogance and over the years was widely translated into independence and self-sufficiency, a personal autonomy, so to speak. Many of the Palmah veterans flowed with the times, changed their lifestyles, forgot the ideals of their youth. All, however, retained that core sense of belonging and fellowship formed on those heady, faraway nights of campfires, coffee, and song. Those who detached themselves from the past were spared the anguish of recent decades when the old kibbutz order collapsed, taking with it values that had been the bedrock of their lives.

Others, such as the Palmah’s erstwhile intelligence officer, Zerubavel Arbel, never resigned themselves to the change. in an interview I had with him at Kibbutz Maoz Haim in order to write Yigal biography, he described, with wonder and wistfulness, the yawning gulf between himself and his father, whom he held in affection. the intellectual parent, a teacher at the historic Herzliya High School, and the son, who had built the IDF’s field intelligence, were separated by an unbridgeable . . .

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