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This Yom Kippur…and the One 47 Years Ago
Surprise attack. Egyptian tanks cross the Suez Canal during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. (Wikimedia Commons)

This Yom Kippur…and the One 47 Years Ago

Maariv, Israel, September 25

I cannot remember when the country was in such a heavy feeling of grief: a sense of failure, loss of trust and, worst of all, no hope on the horizon. Even during the difficult days of the wars in Lebanon and Gaza, when soldiers and civilians were killed, we knew that the war would come to an end with us having the upper hand. This time it’s hard to see a white sail on the horizon; there’s just a heavy black cloud ahead. Some compare the mood today, as we approach Yom Kippur, with the one of Yom Kippur 47 years ago, in 1973. Then, like today, an arrogant and blind leadership led us to a crisis that cost too many human lives. But then, the young state of Israel knew how to recover quickly from the shock, get back on its feet and turn the initial defeat into an impressive military victory. The Egyptian and Syrian armies of 1973 were no less threatening, and even more deadly, than the current pandemic, but we could stand up to them. Today, we have no leader offering us hope and no commander promising us victory. Despair is spreading among us. The most symbolic piece of news, perhaps, was the Washington Post’s story last week about the suitcases of dirty laundry that the Netanyahu couple brings with them on state visits. The whole world sees our dirty laundry. The Start-up Nation seems to have activated its self-destruction mechanism. The leadership of the “chosen people” – the one that’s supposed to provide a sense of direction and strategy – is engaged in endless debate about the tiniest details: which restaurants should stay open and which shouldn’t; whether people will be allowed to swim in the sea or only walk on the beach; and which religious customs are more important than others. If 1973 Israel knew how to mobilize all of its forces from all parts of society to tackle a national emergency, then 2020 Israel should definitely be able to. But in the age of social networks, everyone consumes information and facts that are specifically tailored to them and their worldview, refusing to accept the harsh reality unfolding around them. Out of the upheaval and rupture of that Yom Kippur in 1973 grew a significant change in Israeli society: the downfall of the decades-long dominance of the Labor Party in Israeli politics and Israel’s ultimate decision to make peace with the greatest of its enemies. The failure of 1973 made Israelis adopt a healthy skepticism about the wisdom of our captains and taught us that protest has the power to change. Will the crisis we’re experiencing today also send us on a national soul-searching mission? – Alon Ben David (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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