Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, began at sundown Wednesday amid closures in the West Bank and new revelations about Israel’s miscalculation during the 1973 October war.
Declassified documents about the war highlight just how much Israel had underestimated the strength of its Arab foes amid deep divisions among its military and political establishment.
"We didn’t properly evaluate the effectiveness of their offensive forces," then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said, according to the documents quoted by Israeli media on the 35th anniversary of the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war.
"In viewing the nature of the war as too easy, in that we may have sinned," he told the Agranat commission which probed the conduct of the military in what is known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War. The probe was conducted in 1974 but some of the transcripts have just been declassified.
Lionised after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, Dayan was vilified as a "murderer" by parents of Yom Kippur combatants at their funerals.
Some 2,700 Israeli soldiers were killed when Egyptian troops coming north from the Sinai and Syrian soldiers attacking on the Golan Heights surprised the Israeli army on October 6, 1973.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat planned and executed the surprise attack in and the battles lasted for 19 days. Although Israel considers that it won the war, Yom Kippur remains a black day in the history of the Jewish state’s famed military intelligence services, which failed to notice Egypt and Syria had massed their forces on the border.
The then military chief of staff, general David Elazar told the commission that in the hours before the war broke out the military high command became "an insane asylum."
He said he had requested a massive mobilization of reserve forces, many of whom were gathered in synagogues for Yom Kippur — Day of Atonement — prayers, but was turned down by Dayan and then prime minister Golda Meir. The Agranat commission cleared Meir for direct responsibility of the wartime failures, but she stepped down in June 1974.
"The chain of command was distorted," Ariel Sharon, who was then a reserve general and who served as divisional commander during the war, told the Agranat commission, according to the declassified testimony.
"What caused the most damage during the war was the absence of senior officers from the field," said Sharon, who went on to become prime minister in 2001 and died in a coma in 2006.
In preparation for the Jewish fasting holiday known as the Day of Atonement Israel closed portions of the west Bank and stepped up security in what has become a routine procedure since the stat of the second intifada in Sept. 2000.
The closure became effective before dawn and will continue until 8 a.m. on Friday, the spokesman said.
(Alarabiya.net and AFP)