Yom Kippur, then and now
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Hebrew Media Review

Yom Kippur, then and now

As Israel marks 40 years since its traumatic war, all eyes are on Syria and its chemical weapons

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

The Mount Herzl grave of an Israeli soldier killed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)
The Mount Herzl grave of an Israeli soldier killed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Yom Kippur is the main focus of Friday’s Hebrew dailies, as Israel prepares for the most significant Jewish holiday of the year and the 40th anniversary of the country’s traumatic 1973 war.

“The war that never ends,” reads the headline of Yedioth Ahronoth as it shares the recently released protocols from the Agranat Commission, documents that shed light on how former prime minister Golda Meir viewed her part in the failure to prevent the war.

“I couldn’t confront the head of Military Intelligence or the IDF chief of general staff… people would have thought I’m stupid,” the paper quotes from Meir’s February 1974 testimony regarding the start of the war.

The former prime minister also addressed her thoughts on a preemptive Israeli strike, one that never happened. “I knew then, and I know now, too, that it’s possible, maybe we could even say certain, that boys who are no longer, would still be alive,” she acknowledged. “But I don’t know how many other boys would have fallen due to a lack of equipment.”

Israel Hayom highlights IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz’s special letter to soldiers on the eve of the war’s 40th anniversary, as it reports on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to extend Gantz’s term by another year. The announcement of the decision was expected, the paper writes, noting the government still needs to give it final approval.

Though Israel’s hardest war was “forced upon us without significant warning, the IDF stood strong while fighting on multiple fronts,” Gantz writes. Gantz, the tabloid notes, sent the IDF troops not only his own words; attached to the letter was the order of the day sent out by former chief of staff David Elazar on the day the Yom Kippur War came to an end. Gantz quoted Elazar, saying it is through the lessons of the past that the IDF maintains its guard, noting that the maxim is as true today as it was 40 years ago.

Gantz writes, while alluding to the ongoing civil war in Syria and political turmoil in Egypt: “The IDF stands guard alert and ready as always… My fellow combatants: 40 years ago we carried on our shoulders the worst burden possible, yet we remained standing upright. Today, we stand taller than ever before.”

All the papers continue to report on the recent developments in Syria. Haaretz leads with the latest on the Russian proposal for Syria’s chemical weapons to be placed under international supervision, saying the US has rejected the timeline presented by Damascus.

The paper writes that Syrian President Bashar Assad said he’d start giving information about his stockpile of weapons to the international community in another month, and demanded the opposition fighters stop receiving aid during this time. US Secretary of State John Kerry rejected the idea, telling reporters “the words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough.”

“We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment, because of the way the regime has behaved,” Kerry said. Washington’s top diplomat, the paper notes, kept the threat of a military operation against Assad’s regime on the table, saying the process had to happen soon, in a complete way, “and finally, there ought to be consequences if it doesn’t take place.”

Maariv also reports on the Russians’ four-step plan to strip Syria of its chemical weapons arsenal. The Russians, the daily writes, believe the plan will make any military option irrelevant.

According to the proposal, first Syria would join the organization against the distribution of chemical weapons; then, it will provide a detailed list of facilities linked to its chemical arsenal; third, an international delegation of inspectors will arrive; and finally, all members of the organization will destroy their chemical weapons.

In other news, Maariv reports that, although the police officially forbade Jews from praying on the Temple Mount, thousands of Jews have secretly carried out acts of worship on the holy site over the past year — and says the numbers are on the rise.

The paper recalls heated government debates after Israel liberated the Temple Mount in the Six-Day War, during which a decision to direct Jews to pray at the Western Wall was agreed upon — but no official ban on them praying on the Mount was issued. “Nonetheless,” it writes, “since then a status quo has been maintained: Jews are allowed to visit the site, but prayer is entirely banned.”

Yehuda Glick, a known activist promoting Jewish prayer on the site, tells the paper that the courts have agreed there is no official ban on Jews praying on the site, “but allow the police to forbid it if it believes the act could endanger the public.” He says that the police “always” decide prayer can endanger the public, but “there isn’t a single visit during which I don’t say at least one prayer.”

In a guest column in Yedioth Ahronoth, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch — the appointed rabbi of the Western Wall — writes that Yom Kippur is an opportunity for everyone to forget the differences between them and “with great humility, join the large crowd gathering in the shadows of the ancient stones” of the Western Wall.

Rabinovitch quotes a Jewish source that says the Day of Atonement doesn’t help mend problems between people unless the people forgive each other. The day, he says, “reminds us that, underneath the differences, in each of us beats a Jewish heart, which we’re all part of.”

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