Dr. Itzhak Brook speaks at a Veterans Day brunch about his involvement in the Yom Kippur War.
Dr. Itzhak Brook speaks at a Veterans Day brunch about his involvement in the Yom Kippur War.

One Man’s View – Israeli doctor shares his take on the Yom Kippur War

The congregations of B’nai Moshe, Beth Shalom and Adat Shalom hosted the annual Veterans Day Brunch held at B’nai Moshe in West Bloomfield. The nearly 100 attendees heard Dr. Itzhak Brook describe his experience as a battalion physician in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

He called the war the most difficult time Israel has had to endure. One mistake the invading armies from Egypt and Syria made was to attack on Yom Kippur. The roads were nearly empty and reservists, many carrying a siddur and still in a tallit, mobilized rapidly.

The Yom Kippur War resulted in the deaths in battle of 3,000 Israeli soldiers. Additionally, many combatants were wounded during the 17 days of war. The Russian-supplied SAM missiles shot down many Israeli jets. Similarly, new anti-tank missiles acquired by the Egyptians resulted in the loss of many Israeli tanks and personnel, especially in the first days of the war. Eventually, the determination of the Israeli reservists turned back the invading forces.

Brook commented that the price of the war was seen by medical professionals, who also cared for enemy combatants.

He said he treated Israeli soldiers who confided their anxiety and fear to him. Initially, he tried an approach he saw in the John Wayne movie Iwo Jima, saying, “Get over it, man!” This was not effective. Later, he said to himself that he should share his own feelings with his patients. So, he would say, “It’s OK to be afraid” because he was, too. Dealing with fear and then going on to do your job despite the fear came to represent a new definition of courage.

Brook compared the mourning and shock from the Yom Kippur War on Israelis as similar to what 9-11 caused for Americans.

The unpreparedness for the war resulted in a loss of confidence in the Labor government of Israel, setting the stage for the success of the opposition in the polls. The war did apparently provide a basis for peace agreements between Israel and its former adversaries, Egypt and Jordan. The Arabs felt their honor was restored, as their troops fought bravely. Most significantly, the Arab nations involved realized that they couldn’t win a war against Israel, even by surprise.

A strategic alliance developed in Egypt with the U.S., replacing Russian influence. Today, this alliance among Egypt, Israel and the U.S. in fighting Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups persists.

In concluding, Brook briefly mentioned his bout with laryngeal cancer and his laryngectomy. He indicated how he thought cancer and war are similar. In both cases, you are fighting for your life, he says.  In doing so, you are not alone. You don’t always know what tomorrow will bring. When the process is complete and you succeed, you have a greater appreciation for life.

Gerald Katzman Special to the Jewish News

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