Israelis mark Day of Atonement, reflect on 40 years since surprise attack nearly lost the country.

Thousands of Jewish people gather for prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City the night before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. (photo credit: Dror Garti/Flash90/Times of Israel.)

Thousands of Jewish people gather for prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City the night before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. (photo credit: Dror Garti/Flash90/Times of Israel.)

(Dallas, Texas) — Today is Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement.” It is a Biblical holiday, the day when God called the children of Israel to repent of their national and individual sins and sacrifice animals to receive atonement, or forgiveness, of their sins. It is the highest holiday in Judaism.

Yom Kippur also marks the day when the modern state of Israel was nearly “wiped off the map” by her enemies. Forty years ago today, the Russian-trained and equipped air forces and armies of Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on the Jewish State, a move that nearly succeeded in destroying Israel.

Today, therefore, many Israelis are fasting and praying and reflecting on their lives and going to synagogue — some because of tradition, and some to follow Old Testament customs (albeit complicated by the lack of a Temple in Jerusalem).

Many Israelis are also taking time to reflect on how the reluctance of their Prime Minister in 1973 to launch a preemptive strike nearly led to a second Holocaust.

The Israeli society shuts down completely on Yom Kippur (see below). But the Friday edition of most Israeli newspapers (published before the temporary but complete shutdown) featured articles looking back at the ’73 war and the flawed leadership and failed intelligence that led to such a grave moment for the Jewish people after the stunning success of the ’67 war.

What follows are some excerpts concerning the religious aspect of this day, and links to some intriguing articles about the October war of 1973.

“Israelis prepared for the holiest day of the Jewish calendar on Friday when the entire country grinds almost to a halt for Yom Kippur, Judaism’s day of atonement,” notes an article in the Friday edition of the Times of Israel. “Jews traditionally spend the solemn day fasting and asking God for forgiveness at intense prayer services in synagogues. It caps a 10-day period of soul-searching that began with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year holiday.”

“In Israel, the country virtually shuts down for Yom Kippur,” notes the Times. “Businesses, restaurants and offices close, and TV and radio stations go silent. Airports close and buses and trains stop running. Highways and roads become eerily quiet, devoid of vehicles. Yom Kippur is unique in Israel because it touches almost the entire country. A high portion of the secular population observes the fast — and even those who don’t fast tend to refrain from eating in public, and quietly watch movies or rest at home. Many secular, mostly younger, Israelis ride bicycles and skateboards through the empty roads in some areas.”

HEADLINES REFLECTING ON THE “YOM KIPPUR” WAR OF 1973

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