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Leadership failure traumatizes Israelis as virus surges

On the eve of the second lockdown, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blaming everyone but himself for Israel's failure to cope with the pandemic.
Israeli border policemen talk to a shopkeeper while on patrol in Jerusalem's main market during closure on September 25, 2020, as a series of measures to strengthen a second COVID-19 lockdown imposed last week takes effect. - The new measures, set to begin at 1100 GMT and affecting retails, workplaces, places of worship and demonstrations, were decided after Israel failed to bring down the world's highest coronavirus infection rate. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Im

Israel got the biggest and most destructive surprise in its history on Oct. 6, 1973. On the afternoon of Yom Kippur, as Jews were marking the holy day by fasting and praying to atone for their sins, the armies of Egypt and Syria launched a massive coordinated attack on Israeli troops in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. Thousands of tanks crossed the borders, setting off ear-piercing warning sirens throughout the country and signaling the start of the Yom Kippur War. The Israeli empire, which extended in those days from the shores of the Suez Canal in the south to the summit of Mount Hermon, a stone’s throw away from Damascus, in the north, found itself under existential threat.

The Israel Defense Forces, which just seven years earlier had speedily and easily defeated the Arab armies besieging the state’s narrow borders in the Six-Day War, was caught unaware as the enemy advanced. The Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal, overrunning Israel’s fortifications, and inflicted heavy casualties on the Israeli troops. In the north, an armored Syrian force swept through the Golan Heights, threatening the Sea of Galilee and town of Tiberias below. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, the iconic symbol of Israel’s Six-Day War victory, darkly warned of the impending demise of the Third Temple — essentially, Israel’s annihilation.

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