Many of us will never forget that fateful Yom Kippur in 1973 when, in the middle of services, the message started going around that Israel was at war.
On a day when the streets of Israel are normally silent, the sound of motor vehicles began to be heard as reserve soldiers, in the middle of prayer, left their synagogues and rushed to their units to fight a war for which their country was ill prepared.
It was a bloody war, launched by a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria, and it was one that Israel nearly lost. 2,656 of our soldiers would be killed and 7,250 injured in less than three weeks in fierce battles waged simultaneously on the Golan Heights and in the Sinai desert.
37 years later, Israel is beginning to release some of the classified material relating to Cabinet meetings and discussions between her military and political leaders at the time. Golda Meir was Prime Minister, Moshe Dayan was Minister of Defence and David Elazar was Chief of Staff.
Cabinet meeting minutes show that there was disagreement between Israel’s leaders, even during the final hours before the war, as to whether a major Arab attack was immanent.
There was discussion as to whether Israel should launch a pre-emptive strike as she had done with such success back in 1967. However, there was some anxiety that, were Israel to do so, she would be blamed by the international community for having started the war. Our leaders’ concern for world opinion nearly lost us not only the war but the State of Israel itself.
Thirty-seven years later, there is still a narrow path to be trodden between doing what is in Israel’s best interests and ensuring that we do not lose the support of our allies in the process.