On October 6, 1973—Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar—the Arab world launched a bold and ingeniously conceived surprise attack against Israel. After three days of intense, bloody combat, an unprepared Israel was fighting for survival, while the Arabs, with massive forces closing in on the Jewish heartland, were poised to redeem the honor lost in three previous wars.
Based on declassified Israeli government documents and revealing interviews with soldiers, generals, and intelligence operatives on both sides of the conflict, The Eve of Destruction weaves a suspenseful, eye-opening story of war, politics, and deception. It also tells the moving human tale of the men and women who fought to maintain love and honor as their lives and destinies were swept up in the Yom Kippur War.
Like Blum's The Brigade, this work is more reportage than history. While Blum takes advantage of both newly available Israeli documents and a growing number of memoirs from both sides, the core of this book, and its heart, is the more than 200 interviews he has done with participants, Arab and Israeli. He begins with a familiar question: how did Israel come to be not only caught by surprise, but so unprepared that after the first days of fighting many leaders believed the survival of the state was at risk? Part of his answer is a top-level spy, code-named "the In-Law" an Egyptian at the highest levels of government who for four years before the Yom Kippur War had provided Israel with a steady flow of valuable information. That data in turn convinced Israel's military and political establishment that war was impossible unless the Arab states were a unified coalition possessing missiles and long-range bombers. Meanwhile, another man, Egyptian chief-of-staff Saad el Shazly developed his own concept of a limited war in which Egypt would seize positions; Israel would then have to counteract, with Egypt then bleeding its enemy dry. Blum describes Shazly making his vision a reality against the opposition of virtually everyone else in Egypt. He describes the Israeli leadership that allowed the In-Law who, of course, was a double-agent to string them along, telling them what they wanted or needed to believe, until the last hours before the shooting started. Blum's approach seems an oversimplification, however. Kenneth Pollack's The Arabs at War (2002) demonstrates that Egypt's military reform was an institutional process and not a one-man show. The story of "the In-Law," until or unless Israeli intelligence records are produced, is perhaps best understood as the kind of explanation societies develop to explain complex catastrophes by reference to a single event. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved