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P. David Hornik

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September 13, 2013 - 7:00 pm

PJ-Kippur1

Saturday marks Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the solemnest day of the Jewish Year and, at least in Israel, the most widely observed.

Israel shuts down totally on Yom Kippur. No transportation; no TV, radio, or activity on websites; no stores, cinemas, or restaurants open. Kids exploit the utter stillness of the roads to cavort on them on bicycles.

Observant Jews pray three times a day on regular days; on Sabbaths and sacred holidays, four times; only on Yom Kippur, five times. And synagogues are packed to overflowing on Yom Kippur because the less-observant come to them too. Some come to synagogue only on this one day; some only for two days out of the year—Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the culmination of the ten Days of Awe that begin with Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. Its origin is in Leviticus 16:29-30:

in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do not work at all…

For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.

On the physical level, affliction takes the form of a fast, a 25-hour abstinence from all food and drink. Close to two-thirds of Israeli Jews, including even some who never go to synagogue, observe the fast. Considering that the weather from mid-September to mid-October (when Yom Kippur can fall) usually remains hot and dry, going 25 hours without even water can be a real affliction. Each year on Yom Kippur dozens of people, often elderly, get rushed to hospitals in ambulances for dehydration.

And on the spiritual level, affliction means Vidui—confession of sins before God, while undertaking to desist from them as the year begins. The afternoon prayer service includes a reading of the Book of Jonah, whose essence is God’s forgiveness of those who repent.

Yom Kippur ends, finally, with a fast-breaking meal, and an exhilarating sense—in Israel, interwoven with a special atmosphere of early autumn—of a new beginning.

PJ-Kippur-2

Adding to the solemnity of this year’s Yom Kippur is the fact that it marks 40 years since the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, the most traumatic event in Israeli history.

On the morning of October 6, 1973, Chief of Staff David Elazar met with Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to warn that the Egyptian and Syrian armies were about to attack Israel. It was Yom Kippur, the attack timed for the day when the Jewish state was most vulnerable.

Elazar urged a preemptive air strike. But he was overruled by Meir and Dayan, who were under pressure from U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger not to preempt. The result, in the experiential world of Israelis, was that in the afternoon an eerie, totally unexpected siren sounded for a military call-up. It was the holiest day of the year, but Israel was at war.

Because of the failure to preempt, the war began disastrously. Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal and overran Israeli positions in the Sinai. Syrian forces surged through the Golan Heights and advanced toward the Sea of Galilee. Dayan, on the second day of the war, said Israel’s end was imminent.

Israel, with the help of a massive U.S. airlift, turned the tide and ended up routing both the Egyptian and Syrian armies. But that was not before it had lost almost 2700 soldiers—a stunning total for a country whose population then stood at three million. In the wake of the war came national shock and depression, political upheaval—and a bitter debate to this very day about just whose blunders and misconceptions were responsible for the near-catastrophe.

PJ-Kippur3

A lot has changed since then: no more attacks by Arab armies; Islamic terror organizations, and non-Arab Iran, replacing them as the main foes; huge population, economic, and technological growth. Israel at Yom Kippur 2013 (5774 on the Jewish calendar) is both different and the same, still haunted by the same ghosts of a traumatic war, still fundamentally believing in its ability to tackle all challenges.

From this year’s immersion in introspection, commemoration, and prayer—well aware that our region remains in the grip of fury and strife—we’ll emerge renewed, basically unified, and prepared for all.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel.

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All Comments   (25)
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"I have , of course reported your further libels against the U.S. to the editors. "

Well, if you had wanted to discredit yourself, this would have been a good way to do it.

It's beyond.. or maybe, below silly.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I first wish to thank P. David Hornik for another beautiful word portrait of Israel.

While gator’s comments and implications were despicable, FWIW, I concur with the point (elaborated well by Frummy) that even if Israel had attempted to pre-empt with air forces they would likely have been devastated by the Egyptian and Syrian SAM belts. In addition to achieving tactical surprise with their surprise attack and canal/barrier crossing, the Egyptians and Syrians achieved technical surprise by building and employing forces proficient in the use of a range of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, from shoulder fired to vehicle mounted. In this effort they Syrians and Egyptians successfully diagnosed and exploited Israeli hubris in retaining a 1967 style force based on armor and aircraft (and weak on mechanized infantry and artillery). On the other hand, Israel deserves great credit for designing and employing a new combined arms doctrine within a week.

Finally, Israel might not have had the chance to bounce-back but for the tremendous heroism of her outnumbered forces in the early days of the war (http://www.historynet.com/yom-kippur-war-sacrificial-stand-in-the-golan-heights.htm).
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I appreciate the kind words and disagree with the military assessment, seeing no reason to assume the Israeli air force, highly sophisticated and proficient then as now, would have been so helpless against the SAMs though the SAMs would, presumably, have exacted a price. That they would have been so helpless certainly wasn't what the Israeli chief of staff thought, as quoted below, and it would surprise me if he was indeed so clueless in his assessments.
In any case, I much appreciate your first sentence and the civilized disagreement that follows.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
David,

W/all due respect, I will disagree w/you and the CoS.

The question of how IAF would have done against Egyptian/Syrian SAMs early in the war was answered in the real world. Sadly, they took heavy casualties trying to attack the bridgeheads and were not effective in stopping Egyptian/Syrian forces in the first days of the war.

It is my understanding that this did not change until the IAF created and employed new tactics and received and employed US ECM pods.

US ECM pods were a priority on early airlifts from the US to Israel via the El Al civilian air fleet (http://www.amazon.com/The-Yom-Kippur-War-Arab-Israeli/dp/1846032881).

May this year be a year of peace for Israel and the world.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, but early in the war, after the other side had initiated the hostilities on the ground, the IAF attacks no longer had the surprise value of a preemptive strike.

I second the wish that you close the post with.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I just reviewed much of the documentation (some of it newly released) Hornik pointed to with URLs (provided in comments). The revelations range from fascinating to shocking.

Cutting to the chase: gator1, your argument is no longer with Hornik alone, it is with, among others, Golda Meir and Kissinger(!) If you take the time to read some of the summaries of *direct quotes* from Meir, she explicitly alludes to (1) Kissinger advising Israel not to strike first, (2) Kissinger hinting that the US would not come to their aid in any significant way if they did, and the following, which bears directly on your apparent argument.

That is, that Meir herself, in testimony to the Agranat Commission references an argument being made against her that had Israel attacked first, they would have lost significantly fewer men. And the reasons she gives for resisting such a preemptive strike(?) -- the influence of the "conception" being pushed my Military Intelligence (basically that the Arabs were too scared to attack) *and* pressure exerted by the US.

So, all this talk, this bluster about "reporting" Hornik -- why not start with the source of this argument as relayed by Golda Meir herself, namely countless Israels immediately after the conclusion of the '73 war(?)

You should also extend your disagreement to include Kissinger. For at a prestigious site of George Washington University, lies the following quote regarding the actions of the Pentagon w/r/t Israel:

''On 12 October, when the airlift decisions were being made, Kissinger told Schlesinger that the situation in Israel was "near disaster" and that it was due to "massive sabotage" by the Pentagon.''

You are certainly free to agree with Meir, that had a strike been made, the US would have withheld resupply and the same toll of men would have been paid later in the war. But then make that, or any number of other counter arguments. The point is that Hornik certainly didn't invent this notion out of thin air -- and the argument clearly passes a prima facie test.

So it begs the question as to why you focus so intently on Hornik. That and your off-color remark regarding "who served the Seder dinner" do not serve you well.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"You are certainly free to agree with Meir, that had a strike been made, the US would have withheld resupply and the same toll of men would have been paid later in the war. But then make that, or any number of other counter arguments."

Indeed one is free to take that position, but it seems more likely that a preemptive strike would have put Israel in a much stronger position so that it wouldn't have needed the airlift. Elazar's description of what a strike could have achieved is dramatic and was based on a chief of staff's knowledge.

45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
And in America, a professor of Arabic at a public university is doing this, similar to geography instruction one might get at the Saudi Academy in the state of Virginia.

You'd pay good money to have your child sit in this cretin's class ?

"On the second day of Arabic class, San Diego State University professor distributed a map that had omitted Israel and labeled the land mass where Israel is located as “Palestinian Territories.”...The professor, Ghassan Zakaria..."

http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/13/arabic-professor-distributes-map-without-israel-then-pencils-it-in-half-assedly/
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
gator1, I'm unclear as to the reason behind your vehemence. Hornik made a single off-hand remark in a piece that was only tangentially about the '73 war.

That being said, all your main points are correct, that Israel was over-confident, the Bar-Lev line woefully inadequate upon facing such a huge force, that the technology of the SAMs and the SAGGERs both served to obliterate planes and tanks respectively.

As with any run-up to war, there were *repeated* meetings and arguments among all advisors to the PM. So, to be more realistic about the preemptive strike argument: it too was proposed and denied from a time much earlier than just the day of the war. In that sense, assuming one believes that a preemptive strike would have been beneficial, the PM was repeatedly mistaken by not green-lighting it at an earlier time when it came up. (I see now in your second comment you seem to have made this point)

What many people say about that is that even had Israel conducted a well-planned preemptive strike, it would likely not have been successful due to the SAMs. And even if it had met with success, knocking out the Egyptian Air Force really wouldn't have changed much as, again, it was the SAMs that did all the real damage and provided a sphere of protection to the ground troops beneath.

You speak about the massive Egyptian buildup as if it was blatantly obvious what to do in response. In some sense you're correct. However unlike many countries, Israel does not have the luxury of being able to call up her reserves (in effect, "mobilize") and then not use them immediately. Her already strained economy would spiral down the drain in such a situation.

The bottom line is that Israel was in an extremely precarious position. It was the anxiety of that perceived weak position coupled with the worry that the US would not resupply them that caused Meir/Dagan to (in hindsight, it would seem) act in an overly-cautious manner.

In any case, no matter what the US was saying or doing w/r/t not wanting Israel to strike first, Israel is still an independent country, always proudly responsible for her own defense. In other words, any blame for making a "bad" decision must ultimately be born by her.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is the third time in 6 columns Mr. Hornick has asserted this the first I let go, the second I disputed: the third is too much. The Agranat Commission examined and dismissed his assertions 39 years ago, but like the old "Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbour" BS some people will believe a lie if its repeated often enough. Meier lost her job, Dayan lost his job, the entire Israeli GHQ lost their jobs, no-one above the rank of Colonel survived in Israeli military intelligence: but Mr. Hornick accuses Kissinger of being responsible for Israels casualty rates in specific in pt 3 "Light of the World" and again here. As for his reference below..at least he's graduated from Wikilinks but the author of the article is a columnist for a publication with a rather pointed view and hardly dis-interested.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's been widely documented that by 2 October, Mossad warned Meir that war was coming. Apparently, the head of Army Intelligence missed the signs and kept telling the big shots that it was just an exercise. It has also been proven that Meir and Dayan and Elazar discussed mobilization and a pre-emptive strike. Elazar argued for much larger mobilization at least by 5 October, though I think it was by the 4th, which would have changed things.

It has also been substantively claimed that Kissinger passed a message to Meir that should Israel preempt with the Air Force, it would be alone. You are right that it was the responsibility of Israel's leaders to make the decisions - they should have told Henry, 'too bad, we're going ahead.'

As to your wrath towards David Hornik and your general petulance on the subject of Israel, that's your issue.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
What Chief of Staff Elazar said on the morning of October 6--

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3965041,00.html

45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
such a strike would give Israel "a huge advantage and save many lives."

"We can wipe out the entire Syrian air force at noon. We need another 30 hours to destroy the missiles. If they plan to attack at 5 pm, the Air Force will operate freely against the Syrian army. This is what we are capable of,"
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
such a strike would give Israel "a huge advantage and save many lives."

"We can wipe out the entire Syrian air force at noon. We need another 30 hours to destroy the missiles. If they plan to attack at 5 pm, the Air Force will operate freely against the Syrian army. This is what we are capable of,"
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes. It appears on studying those events that Dayan wimped out. It's really pretty clear. Did he influence Golda or was his hesitance a pretext for her own? I suspect the latter. She was the PM.

That war was very personal for me, though I did not live here then. I learned later that a cousin was killed in the fighting, and one of my Israeli (in CA) friends was a guy who lost a leg in the tank battles in the Sinai. He was a reservist who was thrown into the piecemeal attacks near the Canal under the command of Gen. Adan, I believe. Yet he was fortunate, as from four tank crews that were ambushed by something like 200 Egyptian tanks, he was the only survivor - airlifted by helicopter to the hospital at (?) Bir Gafgafa (?).

My conclusion is that Elazar was clearly right. Kissinger and Nixon would not have abandoned Israel to the Soviets, and the Russians would hardly have nuked Israel because she destroyed the Syrian Air Force. And how was Gen. Elazar 'thanked' for his service? We know that sad story.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Elazar was shafted by the Agranat Commission but the general public didn't buy it and knew Meir and Dayan were the culprits.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
True. Yesterday I read Caroline G's latest piece on Oslo. It is possible to drown in these sorrows, and at the hijacking of the country by 'post-Zionists' mimicking America and the non-Jewish world. But I guess we have other things to do...Caroline's melancholy is just too much for me at times. We will make the changes that we can, live our lives, and participate in the rebuilding/upbuilding. Thanks for your pieces, as they provide good insights to people all around..
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you, and my outlook is considerably less gloomy than Caroline's sometimes appears.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed. Caroline 'religiously' ridicules the national-religious camp, which is - aside from the hedonists - the only really optimistic socio-political grouping in the country (if that makes sense). Now that she has 'left' Bibi, she has, I think, nowhere to go. I simply refuse to be that pessimistic about the future of Israel, which seems viable...despite our reliable 'oy gevalt' tendencies. :)
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think she's pessimistic on the whole, but of course, she alone speaks for herself. I see most of the population as optimistic; there are leftists and lightweights, but most are OK if not better than OK.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Golda Meir to Agranat Commission--if I'd ordered a preemptive strike, we wouldn't have gotten the American airlift. Agranat Commission to Meir--if you'd ordered it, you wouldn't have needed the airlift.

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=11949
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
On Kissinger's advice to Meir to "avoid preemptive action"--

http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB98/
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Frumious, you may be interested in this summation of recent research on the run-up to the war.
http://jcpa.org/article/intelligence-failure-or-paralysis/
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
As for my sourcing, it's Israels own Agranat Commission on the conduct of the war. Read it's conclusions, the indictments are/were devastating and never once mention American influence on a "pre-emptive strike". Why? Because the strike/strikes were contemplated in 1972 and May of 197, NOT on the eve of October. So much for Wikipedia, try instead Simon Dunstan's "The Yom KIppur War 1973 Vol. 2 Osprey 2007., as one of many but the most succinct, ie. "readable" for "Lifestyle Experts".
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
You lie,you lie ,you lie. It is a blood libel to suggest the the U.S. was responsible for Israel's initial defeats in 1973 and yes I know what "blood libel" means in context. You pathetic little ex-patriot Wikipedia sourcing weasel. I knew the minute I saw the article you'd once again LIE. Israel was taken by strategic and tactical surprise. Its entire intelligence service was subsequently fired , retired and re-organized. To suggest a pre-emptive airstrike on the day of battle would be to redifine the word pre-emptive, but thats not the worst of it you ignorant @ss. Thr Israeli AF when it did attack was SHREDDED by an Egyptian SAM belt 20 miles deep covering the Sinai battlefield. Furthermore cavalry charge tactics by the two active armoured brigades in Sinai at the time led to their near annihilation at the hands of Egyptian infantry using SAGGER ATGM. In reality it was Israeli complacency and arrogance that led to their high casualties, not Henry Kissinger. When I was in active service [infantry paratrooper 82nd Abn] we called 650,000 men in 2 army groups including 800 plus AFVs and 500 or so SAMs and their radars moving up to the banks of the Suez Canal a CLUE!!!! Or did Kissinger tell you "no peeking" either?!? Your argument is so specious and banal from a military standpoint it doesn't pass the laugh test. That of course doesn't stop you from repeating it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions not their own set of facts. Stick to who served the Seder dinner, military history is beyond you. I have , of course reported your further libels against the U.S. to the editors.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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