On the eve of Yom Kippur 1973, Israel’s highest echelons took a holiday from reality. The very idea of an Arab onslaught on that day was an affront to Jerusalem’s divinity of military doctrine, which postulated that neither Egypt nor Syria was capable of waging all-out warfare. And much as actors at dress rehearsals reassure their anxious producers, “Don’t worry, it’ll be all right on the night of the opening,” so did Israel’s top brass reassure prime minister Golda Meir not to worry because the IDF would be ready to meet any emergency.

But the IDF was caught napping. The thinly held lines in the north and south were sent bleeding and reeling under the hammer blows of a combined Egyptian-Syrian surprise attack, splintering and crushing the army’s defenses as if caught in the jaws of a closing nutcracker. A combination of highly effective preparations and deceptions, astutely planned to make them look like training maneuvers, allowed the Egyptians and the Syrians vast opening day victories.

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