Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion’s biographer, dead at 89

An eminent journalist, author and historian, Teveth began his writing career in 1950, Teveth produced 11 books, all of which were best sellers.

November 5, 2014 03:41
2 minute read.
David Ben-Gurion

Teddy Kollek and David Ben-Gurion on the Kinneret.. (photo credit: NAFTALI OPPENHEIM/ BEIT YIGAL ALLON ARCHIVES, GINOSSAR)

Israel Prize laureate Shabtai Teveth died on Sunday at age 89 after a long illness, and was buried on Monday in the Kfar Shmaryahu Cemetery.

Teveth was born in 1925 in Migdal Tzedek near Petah Tikva to Shifra and Dov Tabechkin, who were pioneers of the Third Aliya. He spent part of his childhood in Moshav Nahalal, in the Jezreel Valley, which was home to members of the family of future IDF chief Moshe Dayan.

An eminent journalist, author and historian, Teveth began his writing career in 1950 at Haaretz, where in the course of time he became the paper’s respected political correspondent.

Rumor has it that Gershom Schocken, who was then both the publisher and editor of Haaretz, was quick to recognize his talent and paved the way for him to become a star.

Indeed, the paper’s subscribers could hardly wait to read his reports of the Six Day War.

Schocken was a hard task master, something that Teveth had initially resented, but which he grew to appreciate while honing his talents as an investigative journalist with a keen eye for detail. Mutual admiration and affection developed between Teveth and Schocken, and the latter gave Teveth ample room in which to grow professionally, even to the extent of allowing him to take time out to write books.

Teveth produced 11 books, all of which were best sellers. He was one of the official biographers of David Ben-Gurion with whom he spent many hours in conversation in the final years of Ben-Gurion’s life. He also wrote a biography of Moshe Dayan. His book The Tanks of Tammuz (1968), a detailed eyewitness account of the Six Day War, attracted much interest.

Teveth spent 23 years at Haaretz, during which he worked as a general reporter, political reporter, military reporter, columnist, foreign correspondent and investigative journalist.

In 1981, he won a research grant from Hebrew Union College and in 1985 he was appointed senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. In fact Teveth had been instrumental in the establishment of the center.

In 1982, Teveth published a book about the 1933 assassination in Tel Aviv of Chaim Arlosoroff, political director of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, whose murder had remained a mystery for years, although people on the Left of the political spectrum had blamed people on the Right. What he wrote so offended the sensibilities of prime minister Menachem Begin that he ordered that a committee of investigation be set up under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court justice David Bachor to determine once and for all whether Revisionists Zvi Rosenblatt and Avraham Stavsky had been responsible. The two, together with Revisionist ideologue Abba Ahimeir, had been accused of plotting the murder, but only Rosenblatt and Stavsky had been seen on the beach where it was committed. The committee unanimously absolved them and the identity of Arlosoroff’s killer remains a mystery.

In 1985, Teveth was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the state. In 2002, he had a stroke and stopped writing.

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