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The cover to the weekend magazine section of the Jerusalem Post published Sept. 12. “A Battle of Survival,” is the headline. Click image to enlarge.
EIN HOD, Israel – While the rest of the world was watching Geneva and the Russian-American diplomatic dance this weekend, the land at the center of so much in the Middle East was marking a different – but historic – milestone.
Exactly 40 years ago, on Yom Kippur 1973, Israel was surprised by an onslaught on two fronts: a massive force of 100,000 Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal to occupy parts of the Sinai Peninsula, while in the north Syrian tanks rolled across the Golan Heights, throwing the Israelis back from land they had conquered just six years previously.
The weekend edition of the Jerusalem Post (and subsequently, various television documentaries) devoted enormous resources to this topic, exploring it from various angles.
At least five articles – one on the front page, two on the opinion pages and two in the magazine section – were devoted to the war that almost destroyed this nascent nation four decades ago.
“A battle of survival,” is the headline on the magazine cover.
PERHAPS THE MOST REVEALING account came from the ultimate Israeli insider Yehuda Avner in the article Days of wrath and Sacrifice
The first sentence is a stunning indictment of two of Israel’s most iconic figures: “On the eve of Yom Kippur 1973, Israel’s highest echelons took a holiday from reality,” writes Avner, who served in senior positions in four Israeli governments.
The insider’s look at events written by Yehuda Avner in the Jerusalem Post this weekend. Click image to enlarge.
“The [Israeli Defense Force] was caught napping,” he says.
The article describes in detail – with knowledge only someone present at the table could have – how Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister Golda Meier failed to anticipate the two-pronged attack, which resulted in more than 2,600 Israeli deaths and nine days in which the country’s very existence hung in the balance.
President Richard Nixon, already besieged by Watergate woes, and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger rode to the rescue with a massive airlift of material to resupply depleted Israeli forces, which then came within a stones throw of Damascus and Cairo.
Meier and her entire cabinet resigned about six months later, taking responsibility for the failure.
Avner is described as a “retired diplomat,” and is also the author of “The Prime Ministers,” which has been turned into a documentary.
EQUALLY AS GRIPPING is a detailed blow-by-blow account of the battle in the trenches by Abraham Rabinovich headlined Stemming the tide.
Abraham Rabinovich delivers a blow-by-blow account of the battle on both fronts in this story. Click image to enlarge.
“The IDF’s failure to mobilize the reserves left it up to young conscripts and their officers to block the massive attacks on Yom Kippur,” is the summary that tops this tale of heroism, and defeat.
It is only one of a three-part series derived from in-depth research and interviews, but it reads almost like a thriller.
The heroic battles fought on both fronts were, in the early hours, valiant but in vain. Vastly outnumbered by Syrian tanks in the north and infantrymen in the south, the Israelis were quickly overrun on both flanks, suffering heavy casualties which Rabinovich describes in graphic detail.
An editorial in the same edition of paper approaches the topic from the religious perspective.
“National tshuva” draws a parallel between the personal reflection for the individual required on Yom Kippur and the national equivalent that followed the 1973 war.
“On the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War … we should acknowledge that the war and the collective act of self-reckoning that followed in many ways reinstated a national process of tshuva that existed before the destruction of the Temple…” the editorial states.
It explores the lessons learned and the changes wrought in Israeli society by those lessons, but concludes on a positive note.
“In the wake of the Yom Kippur War, Israeli Jews across the political spectrum embarked on a collective act of tshuva. In the process, they unleashed tremendous forces for change.
“These forces transformed Israel into what it is today – a proud, patriotic nation that nevertheless keeps a hand extended in peace to the Palestinians and its neighbors.”
These are, at the least, inspiring thoughts. As we grapple to understand the complexity of the current situation, it helps to know something about the history whence it came.
This is an enormously complicated corner of the earth. Any one who claims to have easy answers should be regarded as a fool.
The best we can do is learn as much about it as we can in an attempt to better understand the historical forces – some dating back thousands of years – that have led us to the present.
Let us hope that our leaders are as well informed as they should be.
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