Dozens of letters penned by a fretting wife to her husband on the frontlines of the Yom Kippur War have finally been delivered, 48 years after they were mailed to him.
The 56 letters were found in a cupboard on a kibbutz from where they eventually reached Baruch “Buki” Snir, who had endured three months of war without hearing a word from his wife, Eti, who had been pregnant with their first-born son, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Thursday.
The discovery did not offer a definitive explanation as to why the letters were not originally delivered.
“It is unbelievable, simply unbelievable. Where were they all those years?” Eti Snir told the outlet during an interview in the Snirs’ home.
Buki was called up as a reservist on the first day of the war, October 6, 1973, and was sent to fight against the Egyptian army.
“I left my wife with a lot of problems,” he recalled. “It was a really difficult time.”
He told Kan of the horrors of war that he witnessed from battles with the Egyptians.
Eti, who was 23 at the time and left alone in their Tel Aviv home, moved in with her parents. Every day, she sent a letter — sometimes two — to her husband to inform him of developments back home and to keep his spirits up.
Yet Buki did not even receive a single one of them. Likewise, Eti received no information about her husband, while news from the front lines poured in about the setbacks, the fierce fighting and the high death toll.
Eti said that every day, she would go to the army office that deals with civilian relations to ask about her husband, noting that at the time, “I was hearing from friends that a lot of the guys were killed, and time was passing.”
“I knew that I was being missed, but I thought there was a problem with the post and I didn’t know why I wasn’t getting letters,” Buki said.
“Theoretically, you can live without letters, but only theoretically,” he said. “You are pretty miserable when for three months you don’t get anything and everyone around you does.”
During the interview, Eti tearfully read out some of the letters, in which she had described to her husband how she was trying to keep her spirits high despite the gloomy rumors from the front, and how she waited each day to see if Buki was coming home on leave, but in vain.
Waiting in line for a check-up while still pregnant, she wrote that she heard a woman say to a companion: “I really don’t know what is the point of bringing children into the world these days.”
“I stood there amazed. I wanted to answer them, but the subject of the conversation appalled me, I could barely hold back the tears,” Eti wrote at the time.
“I was sad last night because I thought you would come at last. Soon it will be three weeks that you haven’t been at home,” she wrote in another letter, not knowing it would be months before Buki eventually came back. “I waited all week to hear from you, from anyone who was on leave, but they didn’t call.”
On January 24, 1974 — nearly three months after the war, but as exchanges of fire continued — as Buki stood in a guard post listening to a radio, he said he learned from a broadcast that his son, Ido, had been born. But from his wife, nothing.
Buki then finally returned home, but there was no trace of the dozens of letters that Eti had written.
Almost five decades later, last week, Buki received a phone call from a man he had never met before, who asked him about his identity and his military past.
It was Eitan Tuvia, from Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the south of the country, whose uncle had recently died. As the family cleared his home, they found a bag containing the letters.
“It was military mail, I looked at the stamp and it was October ’73,” Tuvia told Kan.
Tuvia said that as soon as he found the letters, it was clear to him that he must do everything possible to find out who they belonged to. “It was a part of their lives that was missing,” Tuvia said. He was able to track down Buki, but the letters were addressed to “Baruch Naeh.”
When Tuvia asked Buki if that was his name, he confirmed the detail, adding that he had since changed his surname to Snir.
Tuvia pressed on and asked him for his IDF file number, the unique identifier every soldier gets. Buki’s response confirmed that the letters had indeed been addressed to him.
The letters were soon delivered to their intended recipient, 48 years after they were originally sent.
Tuvia said his uncle had been an armorer for Snir’s battalion serving in Ismailia, on the western bank of the Suez Canal in northeastern Egypt.
He said he did not know why the letters were not delivered in real-time.
“It could be that there were problems with the post and the letter didn’t always reach the companies [of soldiers], so he just collected the letters,” Tuvia said.