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Mordechai Bar-On (also known by his nickname “Moraleh”) was born on December 26, 1928 in Tel-Aviv to his parents Avraham and Yehudit (Sofia) Braun (later changed to Bar-On), who immigrated to Palestine from Germany in 1924. From the age of 2 he grew up in Rishon le-Zion. Morale graduated from his local elementary school and completed his matriculation at the local high school. His elder brothers were the Israel Prize winning composer Yehezkel Braun and Colonel Benjamin Bar-On, a member of the team that developed the Merkava tank.

At the age of 10, Mordechai became a member, and later a counselor, in the socialist Zionist youth movement Ha-Shomer ha-Tzair. He sees in his activity in this movement an important contribution to his education and personal formation. At the age of 15 he joined the ranks of the Hagana, the military arm of the Jewish community of Palestine. At the age of 17 he graduated a course for squad commanders. Upon graduating high school he joined the Jewish Settlement Police and was appointed commander of its mobile unit.

At the outbreak of the 1948 War, he attended the last officers’ course of the Hagana (now considered the first officers’ course of the Israel Defense Forces, Commanded by General Haim Laskov). Upon graduation Lieutenant Bar-On joined the 55th battalion of the Givati Brigade.

During Israel’s War of Independence Bar-On served as platoon- and later as company commander in various battles against the Egyptian Army in the Southern Command: He captured a number of Arab villages, held a few sections of the defense line, participated in the siege of the Egyptian brigade in Faluja, and pursued the retreat of the Egyptians along the coastal road to the Gaza strip.


In December 1948 the brigade was transferred to the Central Command and Bar-On was wounded in defense of a position he had just captured from the Iraqi Army near Ramat-Hakovesh. After recovery he returned to his unit and according to the Armistice Agreement with Jordan, took commanded over of three Arab towns (Taybeh, Tira and Qalansuwa).


During 1950 and 1951 Bar-On was involved in establishing Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem and the road to it, fighting the threat of armed Palestinian infiltrators in the area. At the end of this period he was promoted to the rank of Major and nominated Chief of Operations of his Brigade.

In 1952 Major Bar-On was sent by the IDF to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1954 he earned a BA in History and Economics Cum Laude. After one year in command of Jerusalem’s ROTC he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel as the head of the IDF’s historical section.


In this capacity he completed Lieutenant-Colonel Netanael Lorch’s major project, “The History of Israel's War of Independence,” and began Writing the record of the many retaliation operations that took place at the time. He personally participated in the Kinneret Operation and wrote its record. Published in Hebrew as  'עלי זית׳: הפשיטה בחופי הכינרת בליל 12 בדצמבר 1955.


In 1956-1957 Bar-On served as head of office of General Moshe Dayan, the IDF’s Chief of General Staff. In this position he accompanied General Dayan in all his meetings, military operations, at the front-line units in the 1956 Sinai War, and in his diplomatic meetings.


The most important of these were the meeting, together with Golda Meir, then Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, with members of the French government in September 1956, and the meeting, together with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in October 1956, with members of the French and British Governments. During this entire period Bar-On wrote a daily record which was the basis of his book Challenge and Quarrel (Etgar ve tigra).

After completing the IDF’s School of Staff and Command in 1958, Bar-On attended Columbia University’s School of Foreign and Public Affairs for two years and earned an MIA degree. From 1962-1968 Bar-On served as Chief Education Officer of the IDF, holding the full rank of Colonel.


This role required him to develop, initiate, and manage activities in the areas of Hebrew literacy; general academic studies of all levels from elementary through high school; cultural enrichment (music, theater, cinema, literature, and general knowledge of national and world affairs). It was his responsibility to define and articulate war morality and human values.


His many initiatives in these areas include establishing an IDF classical string quartet and staging serious theater (“Anne Frank,” for example) alongside the existing light music revue troupes (Ha Lehakot), publishing more than 100 translations from the best of international literature, defining the limits of punishment of soldiers by low-ranking commanders, and holding a public competition to establish the official marching music of the IDF.


After the Six Day War Bar-On edited the official War Pictorial Record and at General Yitzhak Rabin’s request wrote the famous speech delivered by Rabin on Mount Scopus. At the end of 1968, after 21 years of service, Bar-On retired and was elected by the World Zionist Congress as a member of its Executive Committee and Head of its Youth Department.


He served in this position for 9 years. In this capacity he ran a network of over 300 educational emissaries (Shlihim) who encouraged diaspora Jewish Youth and students to immigrate or at least to visit and get to know Israel and be Inspired by it.

20,000 young Jews from the Diaspora spent 4-5 weeks annually under the auspices of the department in Israel touring the country and studying its history, economics, and society.


Bar-On initiated a number of new institutions such as the School for Educational Emissaries, Kiriat Moria Youth Hostel, the Pardes and Ma’ayanot schools for the study of Judaism, and Hamelitz – a series of encounters of Israeli youth with their Jewish identity.


In 1977 Bar-On spent a year touring more than 30 Jewish communities in Canada and the USA, establishing in each a special mechanism to deal with all Israel-related issues (except fundraising).


At the end of his second term, he resigned from his service in the Jewish Agency and began his PhD studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The historic visit of Egyptian President Sadat in Jerusalem brought a pause in his academic endeavors and pushed him to take part in Israel’s politics.


He became one of the central leaders of the Peace Now movement and a member of the executive committee of the Institute for Peace in the Middle East. In these frameworks he published many articles and booklets, held public speeches, and participated in many encounters with Palestinian leaders.


In the summer of 1982 he was mobilized to the military service and spent time in Lebanon, meeting Lebanese leaders. In 1983 he toured communities across the USA together with Mohamed Milhem, the Mayor of Halhoul, to spread the message that a peaceful solution for the West Bank is possible.


In the 1984 elections Bar-On was elected a member of Knesset for the Movement for Civil Rights and Peace and but resigned two years later to return to academic life.


In 1988 Bar-On earned his PhD degree, with his dissertation on the Foreign and Security Policy of Israel 1955-1957. From 1989 to 1992 he was a research fellow at the Ben-Gurion Institute in Sdeh Boker. During that time he received an award of distinction and began to publish numerous articles and books in his field of research.


In 1991 he joined the New Israel Fund and served for four years as its president. At the end of 1993, after a year as research fellow in the US Institute of Peace In Washington, DC, during which he wrote the book In Pursuit of Peace, he joined the Institute for the Study of Eretz Israel at Yad Itzhak Ben-Zvi in Jerusalem, where he would remain a fellow for the next 25 years.


Between 1994 and 2015 he also served as Chair of the Academic Steering Committee of the Galili Institute for the Study of the History of the Hebrew Armed Forces. 

In winter 2016, at the age of 88, his health began to fail and Bar-On moved from academic research to writing fiction. His first novels to be published are Between Two Homelands and The Italian Prisoner.


Mordechai Bar-On has been married for the last seventy years to Erela. He has three daughters – Einat, Tal, and Hilla – 8 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren. He will soon reach the age of 91. For the last 50 years he has lived in the German Colony in Jerusalem.

 English Books

english books
  1. Education Processes in the Israel Defense Forces, IDF, Tel Aviv 1966.

  2. Peace Politics in Israel from Sadat to Hussein, The Internationl Center for Peace in the Middle East, Tel-Aviv 1986/

  3. Past Lessons and Future Logic: National Security Consideration for Peace Making in the Middle East – The Israeli Perspective', University of Maryland at College Park, 1994

  4. The Gates of Gaza: Israel's Road to Suez and Back 1955-1957, St. Martin's Press, New York 1994.

  5. In Pursuit of Peace: A History of the Israeli Peace Movement, United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC

  6. A Never Ending Conflict: A Guide to Israeli Military History, Praeger, Westport Conn. 2004.

  7. Moshe Dayan, Israel's Controversial Hero 1915-1981. Yale University Press, New Haven 2012.

English Articles

  1. "Political Lies", in New Outlook 18, May-june 1972

  2. "Hymn a la Paix" Tribune Juive, 20.11.1970.

  3. "Post-Revolutionary Zionism" in New Outkook (1975)

  4. "Zionist Vision in the Test of Fulfilment" in National Union of Israeli Students, Jerusalem February 1976.

  5. "Mit Phantasie fur Kompromisse: Die  'Frieden Jetzt' Bewegnug" in Daniel Wiener (Hg.), Shalom, Rowolt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1984.

  6. "A talk about Peace" in Carol Birkland (ed.) Unified in Hope: Arabs and Jews Talk about Peace. WCC Publications, Geneva 1987.

  7. "Israeli Reactions to the Palestinian Uprising", Journal of Palestinian Studies, Vol. XVIL. No. 4, Summer 1988.

  8. "David Ben-Gurion and the Collusion" in Roger Louis & Roger Owen (eds.), Suez 1956: The Crisis and its Consequences, Oxford Press, New York, 1989.

  9. "Chancen fur Frieden" in Hajo Funke & Christian Sterzing (Hrsg.), "Frieden Jetzt:  und Arbeit Israelischer Friedengsruppe, Haag + Herchen, Frankfur am Main 1989.

  10. "What Happened to the Israelis of Amos Elon?", in Amos Elon: A Festschrift on His Sixtieth Birthday, Roundtable Press, New York.

  11. "The Influence of Political Considerations on Operational Planning in the Sinai Campaign" in Ilan Truen & Moshe Shemesh (eds.). The Suez-Sinai Crisis 1956: Retrospective and Reappraisal, Frank Cass, London, 1990.

  12. "Peace Now on the Iraqi Invasion" in Jewish Currents, Vol. 44. No. 9, October 1990.

  13. "If You Want it, it is not a Fairy  Tale: Obstacles for Peace in the Ideology and Political Culture of Israel".  A Lecture Delivered at City University in New York 1991.

  14. "Chancen fur den Frieden" in Jorn Bohme & Christian Sterzing (Hrsg.). Friedenskrefte in Israel, Haag+Herchen, Frankfurt am Main 1992

  15. "Zionism into its Second Century: A Stock Taking" in Keith Kyle & Joel Peters (eds.) Whither Israel? The Domestic Challenges, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London 1993.

  16. "The Relationship between France and Israel and the Crisis" in Maurice Vaisse (ed.), La France et L'Operation de Suez de 1956, Centre d'Etude d'Histoire de la Defence, Paris 1997.

  17. "Historiography as an Educatuinal Project: The Historians' Debate in Israel and the Middle East Peace Process." in Ilan Peleg (ed.), The Middle East Peace Process: Interdisciplinary Perspective, SUNY Press, Albany 1998.

  18. "Israel's Six Wars: Change and Continuity" paper presented at a Leonard Davis Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  19. "If You Want it, it is not a Fairy Tale" in Gershon Baskin & Zakaria al Qaq (eds): Creating a Culture of Peace. IPCRI, Jerusalem 1999.

  20. "L'armee de l'air Israelienne dans la Guerre des Six-Jours, 1967" in Aviation Militaire Survol d'un Siecle, Ecole Militaire,  Paris 1999.

  21. "Small Wars, Big Wars: Security Debates during Israel's First Decade" in Israel Studies, Fall 2000.

  22. "Reassessing Israel's Road to Sinai/Suez, 1956"  in Laura Zittrain Eisenbarg et Alias (eds.): Traditions and Transitions in Israel Studies. State University of New York Press, New York 2003.

  23. "Introduction" (Italian). In Gualtiero Cividalli, Dal Sogno alla Realita: Lettere ai Figli Combattenti  Israele 1947-1948, Guintina, Firenze 2005.

  24. "Conflicting Narratives or Narratives of a Conflict: Can the Zionist and Palestinian Narratives of the 1948 War Be Bridged? In Robert Rotberg (ed,) Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict: History's Double Helix, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2006.  

  25. "Cleansing History of its Content: Some Critical Comments on Illan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" in The Journal of Israeli Studies, Tel-Aviv University 2008.

  26. "Lies or Self Delusion?: Sir Anthony Eden and the Sevres Collusion – October 1956" in Zach Levey and Elie Podeh (eds.), Britain and the Middle East: From

  27. He Imperial Power to Junior Partner, Sussex Academic Press, Brighton 2008.

  28. "The General's Revolt: Civil-Military Relations in Israel on the Eve of the Six Day War" in Middle East Studies, Vol 48. No. 4, January 2012.

  29. "A Binational State Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean: Evolution and Critical Survey of the Idea" in Anita shapira et alias (eds.), Nationalism and Binationalism: The Perils of Perfect Structures, Sussex Academic Press, Brighton 2013

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