Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
8 - 14 October 1998
Issue No.398
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

They said about October *

Golda Meir, Israeli prime minister during the October War
"The Egyptians crossed the Canal and hit our forces in Sinai hard. The Syrians pushed deep into the Golan Heights. We incurred grave losses on both fronts. The agonising question at that time was should we or should we not inform the nation of the truth of our appalling situation?

"I write of the Yom Kippur War not as a military report, but as an intimate disaster or a horrible nightmare that I myself have suffered and which will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life." -- My Life

Moshe Dayan, Israeli defence minister during the October War
"The war has shown that we were no stronger than the Egyptians. The halo of supremacy and the political and military premise that Israel is stronger than the Arabs, that they would be defeated should they dare to start a war, did not hold true.

"My theory was that it would take them the whole night to erect bridges, which we would manage to disable using our armoured vehicles. But it turned out that it was not easy to disable them. Sending tanks to the battle front was very costly. We never expected that." -- Press conference, 9 October, 1973

Aba Eban, Israeli foreign minister during the October War
"Many changes have taken place since 6 October 1973. We should not, therefore, overestimate Israel's military supremacy. On the contrary, there is now an overwhelming sense in Israel of the need to review national rhetoric. We have to be more realistic." -- November, 1973

General Ishio Javitch
"For Israel, the war ultimately ended without our being able to break up the Arab armies, neither Egypt's nor Syria's. We scored no victories. Nor did we succeed in restoring the deterrent power of the Israeli army. If we assess achievements against targets, we will find that the Arabs' victory was the more decisive." -- Symposium on the October War, Jerusalem, 16 September 1974

Amnon Kapelock, Israeli military commentator
"The English proverb says, 'the higher you rise, the further you fall.' On 6 October, Israel fell off the top of the tower of peace and tranquillity it had built for itself. The shock was as great and as impressive as the earlier illusions had been.

"It seemed as though the Israelis had woken up from a long sweet dream to find the principles, illusions and facts they once believed in shaken and shattered by a new, unexpected fact, which to most of them, was quite incomprehensible." -- Israel: End of a Myth

Zaev Schev, Israeli military commentator
"For the Israeli army, this is the first war in which many soldiers suffered combat shock and needed psychological treatment. Some of them forgot their own names.

"The October War has shaken Israel from top to bottom. In the place of our former overconfidence, suspicions have emerged and questions surfaced: could we stand another war?" -- The October Earthquake: Yom Kippur War

David Hirst, British journalist
"The October War was an earthquake. For the first time in the history of Zionism, the Arabs tried and succeeded in imposing by the force of arm a fait accompli.

"The setback was not merely military, but it also affected all the psychological, diplomatic and economic elements making up the power and vitality of the nation. Within three weeks, they lost, according to official figures, 2,523 personnel, a loss which in proportionate terms is two and a half times the US loss in the Vietnam war over ten years" --The Gun and Olive Branch

The Daily Telegraph, 7 October 1973
"As the Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal, cutting through the Bar Lev line, it changed the course of history both for Egypt and the entire Middle East."

Reuters, Tel Aviv, 11 October 1973
"It was quite clear that the Israelis had lost the initiative in this war. This was admitted by their leaders, including General Shlomo Jonin, commander of the southern front in Sinai, who said, 'This is the most difficult war fought by Israel since its creation in 1948.'"

L'Humanité, 17 October 1973
"The October war has shattered the security borders theory as understood by Israeli leaders. The war has proved that Israel's security cannot be guaranteed by tanks and missiles but only by a peaceful settlement with the Arab states."

Ha'aretz, 2 November 1973
"For the first time in their lifetime, Israeli soldiers have known the experience of siege and isolation during battle, the disgrace of capture and the fear of ammunition running out."

Der Spiegel, 5 November 1973
"General Yitzhak Rabin had announced that his country had military plans for all eventualities, including the occupation of the North Pole. But it seems that the sweeping Egyptian onslaught at midday on 6 October had not been included among Israeli 'eventualities'. For this oversight, they paid a heavy price."

Ma'areev, 20 September 1998
"The alarm that went off at 1.50 pm on 6 October 1973 was more than a mere alarm cautioning Israeli citizens to go down into their underground shelters. It was, rather, the call that is heard marking the burial of the dead. The deceased was the first Israeli republic. When the war was over, the clock was turned back and a new history began. After 25 years, the pillars of old Israel were no more than a wreck stranded by the side of the road."

* Extracts from the book "The October War through the Eyes of Contemporary Witnesses", published by the State Information Service in October 1998.