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The Eve of Destruction: The Untold Story of the Yom Kippur War Hardcover – September 30, 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like Blum's The Brigade, this work is more reportage than history. While Blum takes advantage of both newly available Israeli documents and a growing number of memoirs from both sides, the core of this book, and its heart, is the more than 200 interviews he has done with participants, Arab and Israeli. He begins with a familiar question: how did Israel come to be not only caught by surprise, but so unprepared that after the first days of fighting many leaders believed the survival of the state was at risk? Part of his answer is a top-level spy, code-named "the In-Law" an Egyptian at the highest levels of government who for four years before the Yom Kippur War had provided Israel with a steady flow of valuable information. That data in turn convinced Israel's military and political establishment that war was impossible unless the Arab states were a unified coalition possessing missiles and long-range bombers. Meanwhile, another man, Egyptian chief-of-staff Saad el Shazly developed his own concept of a limited war in which Egypt would seize positions; Israel would then have to counteract, with Egypt then bleeding its enemy dry. Blum describes Shazly making his vision a reality against the opposition of virtually everyone else in Egypt. He describes the Israeli leadership that allowed the In-Law who, of course, was a double-agent to string them along, telling them what they wanted or needed to believe, until the last hours before the shooting started. Blum's approach seems an oversimplification, however. Kenneth Pollack's The Arabs at War (2002) demonstrates that Egypt's military reform was an institutional process and not a one-man show. The story of "the In-Law," until or unless Israeli intelligence records are produced, is perhaps best understood as the kind of explanation societies develop to explain complex catastrophes by reference to a single event.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

After defeat in the Six Day War in 1967, Egypt's Nasser maintained his confidence in the ultimate demise of the Jewish state. Arabs, he mused to a reporter, can lose many times, but Israel cannot afford to lose even one war. As the thirtieth anniversary of the October 1973 Yom Kippur War approaches, it is pertinent to be reminded just how close Israel came to cataclysmic defeat in that conflict. Blum is an investigative reporter and a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. Some of the details reported here are already widely known, including the woeful unpreparedness of Israeli forces on two fronts, the decimation of Israeli defenses in the first 72 hours of war, and Israel's desperate need for basic military supplies as fighting continued. However, relying on numerous interviews with participants as well as recently declassified documents, Blum provides a fuller picture of Israel's precarious position and should remind us that Israel's "obsession" with security and defensible borders is not paranoid raving. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (September 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060013990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060013998
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Howard Blum knows how to write engaging history, and I ought to know since I spend a good portion of time reading dry as dust academic journal articles and books. Most scholarly treatments of any historical subject reek of infuriatingly dense prose, annoying jargon, and specialization carried to the nth degree. "The Eve of Destruction: The Untold Story of the Yom Kippur War" avoids all of these trappings in an attempt to tell the events surrounding the disastrous war that started between Israel, Egypt, and Syria on October 6, 1973. I didn't realize it at the time, but this book arrives just in time to cash in on the thirtieth anniversary of that catastrophic conflict, a conflict that nearly sent the Middle East spiraling into nuclear conflagration. Howard Blum is an author who has written several other books, including "The Brigade," "Gangland," and "Out There."
According to Blum, several important factors contributed to the near defeat of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Mainly, and this factor supposedly appears in print for the first time here, the Mossad and Israeli politicians made the nearly fatal mistake of relying heavily on an Egyptian double agent when formulating their national security policies. Referred to by Blum as "The Concept," the information this agent fed Israeli intelligence gave rise to a belief that until Egypt acquired long-range missiles and bombers and the Arab states unified, Israel would be safe. This "concept" soon informed all aspects of Israeli military and political policy to the point that a secret visit to Israel by the King of Jordan about the Egyptian/Syrian war plans went ignored.
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Format: Hardcover
Howard Blum's "The Eve of Destruction" is written in the unique narrative style that similar articles for Vanity Fair and like periodicals have utilized. These include looking at an historical period through the eyes of actual participants from different vantage points, using recently declassified intelligence, sprinkled in with some gossip, speculation, and innuendo. Nonetheless, Blum's book is an easy read that drills into the reader several concepts that he or she is sure to come away with.

Among those themes: (1) the complete aura of self-confidence bordering on conceit among certain Israeli military and political leaders following their smashing victory in the 1967 Six-Day War that the Arabs would not even dare to launch an attack; (2) "The Concept", the plan designed by Egyptian Saad el Shazly which was predicated on crossing the Suez Canal, breaching the Israeli forces on the other side, and then STOPPING rather than continuing to penetrate deep into the Sinai; (3) the reliance on "The Source", an Egyptian spy (double agent?) who assured his Israeli handlers that war would not come; (4) the sense of panic among some Israeli leaders (Moshe Dayan's "Third Temple" cry, Golda Meir's contemplating suicide rather than being the prime minister who oversees Israel being overrun); (5) the valiant, courageous, and indefatigable bravery of men such as Avigdor Kahalani, commander of a tank battalion in the Golan Heights region on the Syrian front.

The central characters continually revisited are Yossi Ben Hannan and his wife, Nati. Ben Hannan was an Israeli celebrity, featured on the cover of LIFE magazine right after the euphoric 1967 War. He and his wife were actually on their honeymoon in India when he made the trek back to Israel (using unconventional means!).
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Format: Hardcover
Howard Blum tells the untold story of the Yom Kippur War in his latest, The Eve of Destruction. It is a well told tale concentrating on the battle itself as told from the leaders and planners and, in the case of Israel, the soldiers who actually fought the battle. The more personal, intimate touches help hold the reader's interest and the author keeps the whole story moving at a brisk pace. It is an intense read, particularly the sections covering the failures of Israeli intelligence. The action is focused on the war itself, with little outside political context given. Neither the role of Russia or the United States is touched on in any extensive way, and Syria, due to lack of sources, is silent. But what the book does do, it does well. An exciting read.
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Format: Hardcover
This absorbing new book deftly employs the prosaic tools of journalism to approach the subject of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Given the fact the war was one almost lost by the Israelis before they narrowly turned the tide, the riveting story-telling techniques used by author Howard Blum adds to the quality and drama of the unfolding events that fateful October. According to the author, even more than the six-day war in 1967 in which the Israelis made a preemptive strike against the forces arrayed around them to rewrite the maps and borders of the Middle East, this was a fateful struggle that created the perspective and defensive tactics that the Israelis have used to combat their enemies in the decades since.
Blum uses a variety of materials and documents to inform his history of the conflict; availing himself of newly released documents, a growing collection of memoirs and personal accounts, and by painstakingly squaring off with some provocative and quite insightful questions for the more than 200 interviewees he spent hundreds of hours with; the answers he derives leads him in unsuspected directions, and offers the reader an opportunity to understand the conflict as an unqualified disaster for everyone involved, Israeli and Arab alike. Furthermore, by inquiring as to how it was that Israel allowed itself to be so surprised and so unprepared for the onslaught of the invading Arab forces, and how it was the attack that was driving so forcefully into the heart of the country was finally slowed and turned around.
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