9 November 2008
Aaron Eidelson, a lawyer residing in Elwood recounts the complex political and social events surrounding the tragic and violent Yom Kippur War in 1973 and his own very personal involvement.
The war was part of the Arab Israeli conflict an ongoing dispute which has included many battles and wars since 1948 when the state of Israel was formed.It started with a devastating surprise attack by Egyptian and Syrian forces on Israel at a time when Israel was participating in the religious celebrations associated with their holiest day of the year.
In 1972 Aaron Eidelson was a 17 year old student at Melbourne High School before he immigrated to to live on a communal kibbutz in the Negev desert. At the age of 18 he began military training in the Israeli defense force. He had completed a six-month squad commander’s course in the Paratroop Brigades 50th Regiment when war broke out at 2.00 pm on Saturday, 6th October 1973.
Early on the morning on the 16th October 1973 my paratroop company walked through the dark across the Suez Canal from the Sinai Desert into Northern Africa . We were part of Operation Valiant - an attempt by the Israeli army to encircle the Egyptian 3rd Army and force a surrender.
The exquisite beauty of our surroundings stood in remarkable contrast to the insanity of the circumstance that had brought us there. As I stepped onto the soil of Egypt I felt reassured by the groves of tall gum trees sprouting from the sand. It was a typical Australian bush scene. The sun shone through the branches and we knelt down in the warm sand and the eerie quiet. I then heard cats crying. There was a brood of four kittens playing in the sand under a gum tree. They were tabby cats like Benji, our family cat in South Yarra . I thought about adopting one kitten for a pet but where would I keep it in the middle of a war?
Soon after his foxhole on the Suez canal with six soldiers received a direct hit by a Katyusha rocket. Aaron was one of the only three survivors. Injured by shrapnel below the knee, he was evacuated to a field hospital set up in a storageshed 25 kms behind the lines. Aaron says after he was wounded his first thought was: “If Mum knew where I was she’d kill me.”
The following morning, wearing the same blood-soaked clothes, he limped out of the hospital and hitchhiked back to his unit which was camped near Ismailia . He was given a (Russian) Kalachnikov AK 47 assault rifle to replace his submachine gun.
Not long afterwards he was part of a handful of Israelis caught in an ambush by several hundred Egyptian Commandos under heavy fire from rifles, mortars and grenade throwers.
He survived later returning to Australia to study law, education and music.