A Panoramic View of War and Collective Memory

In a thought-provoking book, Dr. Gideon Avital attempts to delve into the depths of the soul of Israeli society and the way it copes with the Yom-Kippur War and its implications

On the 40th anniversary of the Yom-Kippur War, a surge of creativity washed over the State of Israel, in the form of numerous books dedicated to that war. Quite naturally, books that raised and analyzed issues associated with the course of the war or such moves that were etched into the memory of the authors, drew the attention of military experts and people dealing with defense.

The book being reviewed herein, which is based on a comprehensive doctoral thesis by the author, is no more than an investigative conclusion and a profound, comprehensive analysis of the creativity in the various fields, which produced the works that were published between the war and the year 2013.

In this thought-provoking book, Dr. Gideon Avital delves into the depths of the soul of Israeli society. It is a fascinating journey through literature, poetry, children’s books, films, textbooks, radio, TV, popular songs, military periodicals, the printed press, period albums, biographies and memoirs. It examines how the Yom-Kippur War was reflected in Israeli culture since 1973. With courage and openness, by incorporating moving personal stories, it touches the viscera of the war and tackles key questions that have remained open for debate to this day, including: what deposits has the Yom-Kippur War left in the collective Israeli memory? Who were its real heroes and what role was played by the POWs, MIAs and those suffering from PTSD in the story? How has the image of the war changed over time? Is the Yom-Kippur War conceived as a seminal event or as just another major blunder in the national history?

Owing to the massive scope of sources and references, the author chose to address neither the theater (refer, for example, to the play “Gorodish”) nor the Internet, where the number of forums that collect testimonials and analyze issues from different perspectives of the war is growing continuously. As the study concentrates on the Israeli collective memory, the author did not list and analyze foreign publications – not even those published “over the hill”.

In the first part of the book, the author presents a panoramic view of the war and the collective memory. Along with some first-hand experiences, the previous studies of the war are reviewed, some of which deal with the military aspect – even on both sides. The core of the book, its second part, is a journey to the various discourse theaters. The third part presents seven aspects of the war including sights, experiences, personalities, a result conclusion chart. The fourth part presents and analyzes the social-cultural shaping mechanisms, including myths and clichés, ideology and narratives, traumatic and seminal events.

The battle at the “Chinese Farm” is presented as a microcosm of the war. This controversial battle, in which the author took part, became one of the prominent symbols of the war. This book presents the battle as a test case and analyzes the milestones in the structuring the narrative and myth of the battle in question.

Professor Yoav Gelber, one of the most distinguished researchers of the Yom-Kippur War, wrote about this book: “It is one of the most important books about the war: not about what actually took place during the war, but rather about the manner in which it is represented in our collective memory. The scope of reference material is expansive, the breadth of canvas is very impressive, the language is rich and fluent, the images highly diversified, the perspective is panoramic and many of Avital’s insights are original and challenging.” 

Dr.Gideon Avital-Eppstein served as the intelligence officer of the IDF 890th (paratroopers) battalion during the war and fought in the battles at the “Chinese Farm”. After many years during which he had led a successful law firm, he gave up his professional career in order to engage in an in-depth study of his most seminal experience the Yom Kippur War. Today he teaches history, civics and ethics at the Kibbutzim College.

The research thesis according to which this book was written received an honorary mention from the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS).

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