By Israel Drazin
By Haim Sabato
Translated by Hillel Halkin
Toby Press, 2003, 155 pages
This book won the prestigious Sapir Prize for Literature in 2000 and the Sadeh Prize for Literature in 2002. The prizes were well-deserved; the book is splendid, engrossing, informative, and has a lyrical tone. It can be compared with the American classic Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, which tells the tale of soldiers during the mid-nineteenth century American Civil War.
The book’s title captures the dual aspects of the novel. First, how Israel was taken by surprise in 1973 on the sacred day Yom Kippur when it was attacked by several nations. Haim, the author, and his friend Dov, two very religious yeshiva students, army reservists, are called up to join forces in northern Israel, at the Golan Heights. The tanks in which they fought were in bad condition and it was frequently impossible to adjust the gun sights. Israel almost lost the battle in the north during the first four days, but then a miracle occurred and the Syrians retreated.
The book also tells how Haim needed to adjust his own sights as a result of the horrors he saw about him, the many deaths on both sides, the promise by a Chassidic rabbi that he and Dov would survive, and Dov’s disappearance, only his tephilin could be found. Was he still alive? How does one deal with battlefield death.
I believe that readers will find themselves identifying with Haim, be moved by his story, and enjoy hearing it