In this galvanizing account of the most dramatic of the Arab-Israeli hostilities, Abraham Rabinovich, who reported the conflict for the Jerusalem Post, transports us into the midst of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Rabinovich's masterly narrative begins as Israel convinces itself there will be no war, while Egypt and Syria plot the two-front conflict. Then, on Yom Kippur, Saturday, October 6, 1973, we see Arab armies pouring across the shattered Bar-Lev Line in the Sinai and through the Golan defenses. Even the famed Israeli air force could not stop them. On the Golan alone, Syria sent 1,460 tanks against Israel's 177, and 115 artillery batteries against Israel's 11. And for the first time, footsoldiers wielding anti-tank weapons were able to stop tank charges, while surface-to-air missiles protected those troops from air attack
Rabinovich takes us into this inferno and into the inner sanctums of military and political decision making. He allows us to witness the dramatic turnaround that had the Syrians on the run by the following Wednesday and the great counterattack across the Suez Canal that, once begun, took international intervention to halt.
Using extensive interviews with both participants and observers, and with access to recently declassified materials, Rabinovich shows that the drama of the war lay not only in the battles but also in the apocalyptic visions it triggered in Israel, the hopes and fears it inspired in the Arab world, the heated conflicts on both sides about the conduct of the war, and the concurrent American face-off with the Soviets in Washington, D.C., Moscow, and the Mediterranean. A comprehensive account of one of the pivotal conflicts of the twentieth century.
Rabinovich, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, has researched thoroughly and written with clarity, balance and compassion for the victims of a war much larger and fiercer than most Western readers have believed. Anwar Sadat emerges as a major player, having reformed the Egyptian Army and evolved a national strategy of limited objectives. The Israelis, Rabinovich argues, then played into Sadat's hands by intelligence failures that delayed their mobilization, gross underestimation of Arab fighting qualities, and not reckoning on new enemy weapons (the SA-6 antiaircraft missile and the Sagger antitank missile) that would make the Israeli Air Force and armor-heavy ground troops vulnerable. The result was a war that began with serious Israeli losses and major Arab advances, in the Sinai and on the Golan Heights, within miles of Israeli civilians. Sheer hard fighting by the Israelis at the front limited the damage, however, and in spite of leadership conflicts and a few outright failures that Rabinovich dramatizes with flair, a viable Israeli strategy supported by improved tactics gradually emerged. The result was a victory for Israel that was actually more devastating than the Six-Day War, with the added effect of leading to a partial peace with Egypt and later Syria and Jordan. Rabinovich may overpraise Henry Kissinger, and he may underplay the Israeli Air Force, but his book covers everything else at a level equally useful to both the newcomer and the experienced student of the subject.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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1 . Very good book
Posted February 14, 2010 by James , Burlington, NCThis is a well written book giving detailed accouts of The Yom Kippur War. The author is fair in his descriptions of all sides involved. The actions of the air forces of Israel, Syria, and Egypt could have been detailed more but overall an informative and entertaining book about an important piece of middle eastern history.
October 03, 2005
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Excerpt from The Yom Kippur War by Abraham Rabinovich
Footprints in the Sand
Capt. Motti Ashkenazi was not a man to accept a perceived wrong without protest. The outpost in Sinai his unit of reservists took over two weeks before Yom Kippur was in an advanced state of neglect. Barbed-wire fencing had sunken almost entirely into the sand, trenches were collapsing, gun positions had insufficient sandbags, and the ammunition supply was short. When the officer he was relieving asked him to sign the standard form acknowledging receipt of the outpost in good condition, Ashkenazi declined. Without this formality, the unit being relieved could not depart. When Ashkenazi refused an order from his battalion commander to sign, the exasperated commander signed the form himself.
Ashkenazi's unit was part of the Jerusalem Brigade, which had never before been assigned to a tour of duty on the Bar-Lev Line. Unlike the units which normally undertook this task, the Jerusalem Brigade was a second-line formation which included men well into their thirties. Some were immigrants who had received only a truncated form of basic training before being relegated to the reserves. A sprinkling of younger reservists with combat experience stiffened the ranks, and officers too were generally veterans of combat units.
The assignment of such a unit to the Bar-Lev Line, once considered hazardous duty, reflected the relaxed situation on the Egyptian front. It was six years since Israel had reached the canal in the Six Day War, and three years since the intense skirmishing across the waterway-the so-called War of Attrition-had ended.
The reservists had grumbled as usual upon receiving their annual call-up notices for a month's duty, particularly since their tour began on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and would last through Yom Kippur and the subsequent Succot holiday. However, by the time they boarded the buses that would take them to Sinai, some were looking forward to a month of camaraderie, far from the routine of work and home. The men brought books and board games, finjans (pots) for brewing coffee, even fishing rods. Ashkenazi, a thirty-two-year-old doctoral student in philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, took along his four-month-old German shepherd, Peng, because he had nowhere to leave him.
Unlike the other Bar-Lev forts, which were built along the canal bank, Ashkenazi's outpost, code-named Budapest, was ten miles east of the canal on a narrow sandspit between the Mediterranean Sea and a shallow lagoon. The outpost's purpose was to guard against an Egyptian thrust along the sandspit towards the coastal road to Israel. Budapest was the largest of the Bar-Lev Line fortifications, incorporating an artillery battery and a naval signals unit which maintained contact with vessels patrolling off the coast.
Towards evening on the day of his arrival, Ashkenazi, a deputy company commander, climbed the fort's observation tower and looked west along the sandspit towards Port Fuad at the entrance to the Suez Canal. This northwest corner of Sinai was the only part of the peninsula not captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Ashkenazi could make out a string of Egyptian outposts stretching along the sandspit. The one closest to him was only a mile away. Since the canal did not separate them, the only thing that could inhibit an Egyptian raid was a minefield that Budapest's previous commander had pointed out to him during their tour that morning.
As Ashkenazi watched, a pack of wild dogs emerged from the Egyptian lines and trotted down the sand towards the Israeli outpost. They appeared to be heading towards Budapest's garbage dump at the western edge of the position. As they approached the minefield, Ashkenazi braced for explosions. But the dogs passed through unharmed. Tides washing over the sands had dislodged or neutralized the mines. Ashkenazi decided to contact battalion headquarters in the morning to request additional fencing and sandbags.
Maj. Meir Weisel, an affable kibbutznik, was the most senior company commander in the battalion which moved into the Bar-Lev Line. In previous tours of reserve duty, his unit had clashed with Palestinian guerrillas along the Jordan River and taken casualties. "This time," a brigade officer had told him, "I'm sending you to the canal and you can rest." His company took over four forts in the canal's central sector and he positioned himself in Fort Purkan, opposite the city of Isamailiya on the Egyptian-held bank. The officer whom he replaced pointed out a villa across the canal which he said had belonged to the parents of foreign minister Abba Eban's wife, Suzie, who was from a prominent Egyptian Jewish family. It was not clear who lived there now but a gardener watered the plants every day. "As long as you see the gardener working there," said the officer, "everything is OK."