Fifty years ago next week war broke out in Israel. It was the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and the country was caught unawares. Though Israel ultimately emerged victorious, it was not without a high cost — in the number of human lives lost and a seismic shift in how the country saw itself. It also effectively ended the career of former Denverite Golda Meir, the country’s prime minister at the time of invasion. Whether Meir was wholly to blame or was a convenient fall guy is still disputed. That the country was ill prepared, however, is not in dispute though Meir defended herself saying that she held back from a preemptive strike so as not to alienate the US and its Sec. of State Henry Kissinger in particular. (Some of this is depicted in the newly released biopic “Golda.”)
The Intermountain Jewish News had a man on the ground. With no time to spare, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, then Jerusalem correspondent, delivered his report via a telephone call. It was published in the Oct. 12, 1973 IJN — only six days after war broke out on Oct. 6, which was the tenth of Tishrei in 5734.
Wrote Goldberg: “Mrs. Meir has said that Israel was not surprised by the attack, if that were so, military reserves should have been mobilized earlier. When she said that plenty of food would be available, this apparently wasn’t taken at face value,” he wrote, describing “lines of people, in some cases for blocks, in front of the major supermarkets.” He described it as a “credibility gap” between the populace and leadership. Fifty years later, thousands of pages have been written analyzing the war and Israeli leadership. But Goldberg’s on-the-ground reporting — without the benefit of hindsight — provides a window into how Israelis were reacting in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, and also demonstrates that the fissures between government and populace were there from the get go.
There’s a reason why newspapers are called “the first rough draft of history!”
This installment of From the Archives is not culled from our new digital archives. Those currently go through 1969, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight this important anniversary, so we went into our hard copy archive to see how the war was covered. The new digital archive, 1924-1969, can be accessed via Colorado Historic Newspapers.