Ruth Dayan is the founder of the Maskit fashion house and is active in many social causes. She was the first wife of the late Israeli defence force General and politician Moshe Dayan.
Ruth Schwartz (later Dayan) was born in Haifa. She was married to Moshe Dayan from 1935-1971. During their marriage, they lived in Nahalal, and later Tzahala. Ruth's sister, Reuma, married Ezer Weizman, the Israeli air force general, Defense minister and President. Dayan has three children: Yael Dayan, a former Knesset member and Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv; Ehud (Udi) Dayan, a writer; and Assi Dayan, an actor and filmmaker. In 2010, Dayan collaborated on her life story with biographer Anthony David.
Dayan created a sensation with her tell-all book Or Did I Dream The Dream? The Story of Ruth Dayan, coauthored with Helga Dudman in 1973, which became a best-seller. Dayan stated that her husband "had such bad taste in women".
As a proponent of women's empowerment, Dayan founded Maskit, a fashion and decorative arts house that provided Dayan with a way of creating jobs for new immigrants and preserving Jewish ethnic crafts and culture of the various communities living in Israel. In 1955, Dayan met the fashion designer Finy Leitersdorf, who designed clothes and accessories for Maskit for 15 years. The two collaborated on a joint exhibit of Maskit designs at the Dizengoff Museum (today the Tel Aviv Museum).
Dayan also founded a Jewish–Arab social group, Brit Bnei Shem (Ibnaa Sam). She has worked on behalf of new immigrants, the rights of Bedouins and women's causes. She was a lifelong friend of Palestinian poet and nationalist Raymonda Tawil, mother of Suha Arafat, who in 1990 became wife of PLO leader Yasser Arafat. In 1978, Dayan and Tawil planted a peace forest in Neve Shalom, Israel. In late 2009, Dayan flew to Malta to meet Arafat's daughter, Zawha.
On January 11, 2007, Dayan was awarded the Partner of Peace Award by the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam community, a cooperative village of Jews and Arabs midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In 2010, Dayan was awarded honorary citizenship by the Israeli town of Herzliya.