The YOM KIPPUR WAR
Since Yom Kippur is around the corner (starts at sundown the 27th), a post on this is appropriate.
See the information below from Hebrew Online on Yom Kippur. For some useful clips on the Yom Kippur War (1973), see this.
Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּפּוּר, Day of Atonement) is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. On this day, G-d seals our fate for the coming year. The Torah commands us to spend this day fasting and praying for G-d’s forgiveness and a good year.
In Israel, this day feels very special – the businesses are closed, there are no vehicles driving in the streets and no broadcasting on the radio or TV; many people, dressed in white walk to and from synagogues, and children enjoy the empty roads by riding bicycles.
On Yom Kippur of the year 1973, it felt different. People walking to synagogues started noticing military vehicles driving in the streets, some reserve soldiers were called to their headquarters and some people tried to turn on the radio to hear if there was some explanation for the unusual events. At 2 PM sirens sounded all over Israel – Israel was under attack!
The Yom Kippur war came as a surprise to the state of Israel, which felt complacent after the great victory of the Six-Day-War of 1967. The Yom Kippur war began on October 6th 1973, with a joint attack against Israel by Egypt and Syria: Egyptian armored forces crossed the cease-fire lines in the Sinai, and Syrian tanks crossed the cease-fire lines along the Golan Heights. The thin Israeli defense lines were annihilated by massive Arab forces.
Unlike other armies, most of the Israeli Defense Forces depend mainly on reserve forces (milu’im, מִלּוּאִים). The everyday citizens of Israel (who work in the public and private sectors – those who went to synagogues on Yom Kippur) were called on to defend our country. The grocer immediately became a tank commander, the banker wore his flight suit, and the farmer replaced his sandals with heavy military boots and joined his paratrooper unit. They all left their loved ones and families in a hurry to form the barrier between the invading forces and the citizens of Israel.
After a few days of fierce fighting, the Israeli forces managed to stop the invaders and found ways to infiltrate behind their lines.
In a surprise movement, Israeli forces under the command of Ariel Sharon (אֲרִיאֵל שָׁרוֹן) crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt, effectively cutting the supply lines to the invading Egyptian forces. Facing no opponents, the Israeli army stopped voluntarily 101 km from Cairo.
On the north, the Syrians met stubborn Israeli defense that was led by individuals and small units that slowed their advance. In one case, a single tank commander named Avigdor Kahalani, managed to destroy over 200 Syrian tanks, changing tanks time-after-time utilizing all their ammunition. In yet another case, a small tank unit called “Zvika Force” (כּוֹחַ צְבִיקָה) stopped a full Syrian division.
The Israeli Defense Forces pushed the Syrian army back into Syria and reached 35 km from Syria’s capital, Damascus. On October 22nd the Golani Brigade and Sayeret Matkal commandos recaptured the most strategic point in the Golan Heigts – Mount Hermon (הַר הַחֶרְמוֹן). In a famous broadcast, one of the warriors described the mountain peak as “the eyes of the country” (הָעֵינַיִם שֶׁל הַמְּדִינָה, ha’eynayim shel hamedina) – an expression that became the symbol of the Hermon as a place that scouts deep into the enemy’s zone.
The proximity of Israeli forces to the capitals of Egypt and Syria and the siege on the Egyptian army made the two superpowers of the world at that time, the USSR and the USA, massively intervene in a strict demand for an immediate cease-fire that took place on October 24th 1973.
In spite of the fast recovery and the military victory, Israel was left wounded with the loss of 2,656 soldiers and wounded national pride. The fact that Israel was surprised caused a loss of confidence in the ability of the country to protect and guard its citizens. After the war, the Prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir, and the Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, assumed responsibility and resigned.
Every Yom Kippur, as we pray and ask for forgiveness, we remember the soldiers and the heroes of the war that changed our nation. This gives a special context to the prayer verse:
(וְכִתְּתוּ חַרְבוֹתָם לְאִתִּים, וַחֲנִיתוֹתֵיהֶם לְמַזְמֵרוֹת–לֹא-יִשָּׂא גוֹי אֶל-גּוֹי חֶרֶב, וְלֹא-יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִלְחָמָה. (יְשַׁעְיָה ב, ד
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)