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Yom Kippur 2 o’clock — 1973

The gift of firsthand memory of the moment that war began and lives changed

I was in Tel Aviv for Yom Kippur 42 years ago.

From the early morning, we began to notice strange things happening that should not have been occurring on Yom Kippur: a fighter plane flying over head; a jeep racing through the deserted streets; a soldier running holding a tallit.  All through the morning-prayer service people started to disappear; a stranger entered, a tap on the shoulder, a nod, an apology, a worried look, a quick goodbye, a jeep waiting outside.  By midday, children starting spreading the news that the Egyptians had crossed the Suez Canal — Rubbish. How was that possible? Couldn’t be.

At exactly 2 pm, about ten minutes before the end of the musuf service, for some inexplicable reason, the women in the women’s gallery suddenly rose en mass and exited the synagogue.

And only then did I hear the wailing of the siren.

The rabbi calmed us down, told us to remain in our seats until the prayers were over. Unbeknownst to us, far out at sea, a missile carrying a high explosive warhead had been released from an Egyptian fighter plane directed at the center of Tel Aviv. Luckily it was shot down over the sea near the Herzliya Coast.

We went home and turned on the television and listened to Golda Meir and Yitzchak Rabin promising to “break their bones”.  Three weeks later…

For the last few years on Yom Kippur, at 2 pm precisely, I stop the prayer leader. In our minyan, this usually coincides with the Untana Tokef prayer. I make an announcement. We stand in silence. Sometimes I read the following poem.

Yom Kippur, 2 o’clock in the afternoon — 1973

…And who by fire,
And who in a burning tank,
And who on the deadly sands,
And who in an open trench,
And who in a closed bunker,
And who by a SAM missile,
And who on the mountain top,
And who by the long Canal,
And who in an invincible line,
And who in the air,
And who on the sea,
And who will survive,
And who will be mourned,
And who will never be found,
And who will be exchanged,
And who will be forever scarred,
And who will be left to sing this song,
And who remembers anyway?

M. L. Kagan

About the Author
Michael Kagan is the author of the Holistic Haggadah (Urim), God’s Prayer (Albion-Andalus) and The King’s Messenger (Albion-Andalus Books). He is a scientist, entrepreneur, film-maker and teacher of Holistic Judaism. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan.