From "silent generation" to cyber-psy-site, story and history: The 14th Tank Brigade battles on public collective memory and official recognitionMiri Gal-Ezer
Keywords: media generations, battle-trauma, remembrance community, digital memorialisation, cultural capital, netnography, multi-sited and multimodal ethnography
This ongoing offline and online audience research focuses on a case study of the Israeli 14th Tank Brigade veterans, who were involved in horrific battles during the 1973 Yom Kippur War against the Egyptians in the Sinai Desert. More than 30 years after the war, on 10 October 2007, this traumatised community succeeded in constructing a commemorative and historical website. Besides this virtual activity, the veterans attempt to narrate their experiences and construct their memories on real sites: face-to-face commemoration rituals on remembrance days, conversations, group discussions, sports, travel trips, etc. All these virtual and real activities are means to advance their unrelenting struggle to gain public recognition in the national collective memory and official affirmation within Israeli military history. The veterans' military command and combatants of The 14th Tank Brigade challenge the collective memory and public knowledge of the 1973 war.
The theoretical framework combines diverse perspectives. First, the Yom Kippur War and its consequences on Israeli society, theories of generations and media generations, war and trauma, war and remembrance, and collective memory offer the basic structure for analyses, then the culture of memory and remembrance in Israel will be presented (Allen & Brown, 2011; Baumel, 1995; Berman, 1996; Bolin & Westlund, 2009; Bourdieu, 1984; 2004; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1979; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004; Ezov, 2011; Feige, 2003; Gal-Ezer, 2008; Herman, 1992; Herring, 2008; Hobsbawm, 1999; Kalmus, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Runnel & Siibak, 2009; Kaminer, 1993; Mali, 2001; Mannheim, 1952 ; Mosse, 1990; Neiger, Meyers & Zandberg, 2011; Nguyen & Belk, 2007; Nimrod, 2012; Volkmer, 2003; Winter & Sivan, 1999).
The research question addresses the complex theoretical and empirical interrelations within this case study of The 14th Tank Brigade veterans’ mnemonic community activities and functions, offline and online - the struggle over memory and history of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The study uses a combined methodology of multi-sited offline and online multimodal ethnography and netnography (Bourdieu, 2008; Dicks et al., 2006; Geertz, 1973; Kozinets, 2002; Marcus, 1995; Sade-Beck, 2004); Integrated critical discourse analysis of texts and artefacts (Barthes, 1972; Dicks et al. 2006; Fairclough, 1995); and in-depth interviews with veterans and historians.
Findings are based on offline and online data, and represent the inner dynamics and transformations, constructed as three levels or sections of analysis: the first level – Culture of memory and culture of remembrance, interprets through "Thick Description" (Geertz, 1973), CDA and semiotics (Barthes, 1972; Dicks et al., 2006; Fairclough, 1995; Sivan & Winter, 1999) the modes by which the veterans are interrelated to the common Israeli culture of memory, and as a "remembrance community" actively participate in creating cultural artefacts both offline and online. The second section - Comradeship earned in blood – real life on the battlefield analyses the Israeli cultural codes of conduct in the "actuality" of the battlefield, even under the most extreme and traumatic conditions (Bourdieu, 2004; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004; Mali, 2001; Mannheim, 1952 ; Winter & Sivan, 1999). The third section or level – The State and the Law – the struggle from remembrance towards history is the universal level (Ezov, 2011; Fairclough, 1995; Geertz, 1973; Schudson, 1997), analysing the deep conflict which impels the remembrance community to transform its endeavour from a memory and remembrance community and to write the history of the 1973 Yom Kippur War battles in their cyber-site, and attain public recognition.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War and the “Silent Generation”
The 1973 Yom Kippur War, ultimately perceived as the Mehdal (“Failure”) was especially traumatic, owing to lack of preparation by the Israeli army and the subsequent confusion during the first days of the war, both in the government and the high command, although it eventually ended in an Israeli victory. Regular soldiers fought massive tank battles in the Sinai Desert and the Golan Heights, with heavy casualties inflicted by the Egyptians and Syrians, resulting in hundreds of dead and wounded, until the military command took over. When the war ended, a protest led by reserve officer Moti Ashkenazi, who started a one-man hunger strike, initiated a lengthy political and public dispute about military and political malfunctioning that led to a historic change four years later in 1977: the Labour party which had led Israeli society for about 70 years, even prior to the establishment of the State, lost the election to the right-wing parties (Feige, 2003; Morris, 1999).
An enduring dispute, until today, relates to the crossing of the Suez Canal, which is agreed to have been the turning point of the war: to whom should it be affiliated? Public opinion attributed the glory of the crossing and securing the corridor to it by the conquest of the "Chinese Farm"1, to General Ariel Sharon, commander of The 143 Tank Division at the time, and to the paratroopers and their commander Yitzhak Mordechay. However, The 14th Tank Brigade, (a unit under the 143 Division command), led by the then-Colonel (now a veteran general) Amnon Reshef, in 60 hours of successive tank battles - the largest ever in Israeli history (even on a WW2 scale) (Ezov, 2011), claims that they were instrumental in securing the corridor for the canal crossing by breaking the Egyptian army through horrific deadly tank battles at the "Chinese Farm" and on the roads leading to the Suez Canal. The combatants of The 14th Tank Brigade were denied their courageous heroic victory by the paratroopers.
As with the "Lost Generation" in Europe after "The Great War" - WW1 (Winter, 1995), and the "Wounded Generation" of The Vietnam War (Berman, 1997); the generation of the 1973 Yom Kippur War could be conceptualised as a "Wounded Generation". However, even though this generation fought one of the bloodiest Israeli wars, most of the veterans function in daily life as responsible citizens (Lomski-Feder, 1994). Thus they can be conceptualised in Bourdieu's terms as having a divided habitus – habitus clivé – a kind of traumatised habitus (Bourdieu, 2004; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004), which is repressed and not overt, thus better theorised as the "Silent Generation" (Gal-Ezer, 2008).
The problem of generations and media generations
The first to conceptualise generation as a combined historical entity and a sociological analytic concept was Karl Mannheim in his seminal work The Problem of Generations (1952 ). A generation is not only a biological, concrete or organisational group, but a sociological phenomenon, i.e. people who are "located" in a specific time and class in a certain society, and share a common experience as "actuality", and additional collective heritage or era knowledge shaped in their "formative years", enabling them to interpret their common experience. But diverse interpretations could be made according to different experiences through their young formative years as a consequence of dissimilar class locations. Thus, several "generational units" may possibly be formed in a specific era of a particular society (Mannheim, 1952 ). Pilcher argues that Mannheim's original theorisation is a crucial sociological issue in modern societies, mainly because Mannheim also deals with the problem of social change (Pilcher, 1993).
Although nearly 90 years have passed, Mannheim's seminal theory still frames the basic theoretical structure of "Media Generations" which: "[…] might not be technology, per se, that distinguishes the young from the old, but rather the actual ways in which it is used. One approach to discuss this is in terms of media generations. It could be expected that generations that have grown up with different mediated experiences during their formative years, will relate to the […] technology in a variety of ways" (cf. Mannheim, 1952, cited in Bolin & Westlund, 2009, p. 108).
The prominent study based on Mannheim’s theorisation seems to be News in Public Memory: An International Study of Media Memories Across Generations, published in a book by Ingrid Volkmer (2006), with an earlier report in 2003. Supported by UNESCO, this international study included research teams from 11 states, who conducted a comparative analysis on childhood and youth news memories of three generations, each of which had experienced a different era of the global public sphere during their "formative'" years (a theorisation and categorisation also used by the above-cited research of Bolin & Westlund, 2009; and by Kalmus, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Runnel & Siibak, 2009).
Volkmer’s findings show that youth's first impressions and experiences form a specific common generational worldview. Another important finding was the establishment of globalisation processes regardless of differences between countries, and transformation into net society, while the youngest generation showed a somewhat superficial knowledge and convergence of memories and meanings (Volkmer, 2003). In the recent decade, media generation research has focused on the uses of the new media by different generations. Following Mannheim (1952 ) and Volkmer (2003), Bolin and Westlund show that the young Finnish generation (born 1980's) uses the cellular phone in different modes compared to the previous media generations. A study of Estonian youth which was conceptualised as a "Generation C" (Creative) (mainly born 1990's), explored its creative characteristics in the web. Findings show that the more structured the web practices, the more widespread they are (such as forums) than the practices which require greater skills and freedom (such as personal blogs). The researchers recommend an improved multiple "media literacies" education for the youth, in order to bridge the "participation gap" and "empowerment divide" (Kalmus, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Runnel & Siibak, 2009).
Herring (2008) criticises the overwhelming focus on the "Digital Generation". She questions the "generational divide" and contends that the adults, and in particular journalists, media producers and even the academia, are constructing the "online" youth identity, on the false assumption that the "Digital Generation" is superior in the new media environments. This synthetic construct is analysed through three forms of public discourse about “online youth”: media production, media commentary, and new media research. Then she explores the different perspectives and viewpoints of the youth on these matters (Herring, 2008). Fisher (2010), who analyses the discourses of the new media, maintains that they are essential for the assimilation and legitimation of techno-capitalism.
However, adults do use the web, for example, for purposes of discussion, information and consultation in matters of tourism (Nimrod, 2012). An earlier study was carried out when computers, especially the internet, began penetrating the media environment. Findings show that those with computers and access to the internet were not only young people, but also educated people of over 55. Additionally, there was no displacement effect between books, cinema and the computer; on the contrary – the young and over 55’s with computer and internet access increased their reading of books, newspapers and cinema attendance as a consequence of intellectual arousal from computers and the internet. Interpretation of the results could therefore reveal that academic and cultural capital mediate and interrelate between new and "old" media (Adoni & Nossek, 2001).
Generations, national habitus, war and trauma
Bourdieu's habitus is a multilayered deep unconscious scheme guiding cognitive, emotional and bodily actions and trajectories of the actors in a specific field (Bourdieu, 1984; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1979). As Bourdieu relates a habitus to a class, his theory was conceived as disregarding nation and history. Thus, on this seeming lacuna, Pickel suggested the Homo Nationis - "National Habitus": an individual and group psychosocial foundation constructed through modern nation-states’ historical-structural contexts (Pickel, 2004). However, in his early writings, Bourdieu conceived the habitus as cultural, ethnic and national (Bourdieu, 2004; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004). Hence Bourdieu approaches many scholars who explore extensively the mutual relationships within identity, culture, nationality, historical era and generation (Barthes, 1972; Berman, 1996; Mali, 2001; Winter, 1995; Winter & Sivan, 1999).
Homologous to Bourdieu's and Pickel's "National Habitus", is the older "Generation Identity" concept, which is linked to historical trauma (Mali, 2001). Although awareness of battle trauma as a phenomenon has existed since WW1, at the time it was conceived as "Shell Shock" (Winter, 2000) and considered over decades as mental illness or a fabrication by soldiers who wanted to escape the battlefield. The consequences of the Vietnam War (1955-1975), when large numbers of American soldiers were wounded by "Combat Neurosis", gave rise to new concepts and treatment of the phenomenon. After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, for the first time, the Israeli army "recognised" the concept of battle trauma in soldiers (Bliech & Solomon, 2002). In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). The key to understanding the scientific basis and clinical expression of PTSD is the concept of "trauma." The DSM-III dichotomisation between traumatic and other stressors was based on the assumption that, although most individuals have the ability to cope with ordinary stress, their adaptive capacities are likely to be overwhelmed when confronted by a traumatic stressor such as war, torture, rape, the Nazi Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, natural disasters such as earthquakes, and man-made extensive disasters such as factory explosions, airplane crashes, and car- or train accidents. 2
Since PTSD conceptualisation began to emerge during and after the Vietnam War, thus, too, theorisation of the concepts of "Generation Identity", that leans heavily on historic traumatic experiences, was shaped relatively recently during the 1980's and 1990’s. Reading Bourdieu studies in Algeria, conducted in 1956-1960, no theoretical concept of trauma exists, but the events and their consequences analysed are very traumatic. During the expulsion of the civilian population, the French colonial army, in order to hasten the "operation", set the peasants' houses on fire while the inhabitants were still in them, apart from using other horrific "measures" to oppress the Algerian resistance. Hence, Bourdieu conceived the Algerians as having cultural, national divided habitus – habitus clivé - (Bourdieu, 2004; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004) a kind of traumatised habitus.
War, collective memory, remembrance communities and culture
Representation of the traumatic experience by its survivors is most difficult, because the traumatic situation is not processed by the regular memory mechanisms of the brain. Rather, it remains as a whole, total experience. Thus, specific triggers related to the traumatic experience can elicit the traumatic situation as a total unmediated experience, causing a “flooding” of the experience, and the person feels unbearable horror and anxiety, as if the traumatic event is recurring. So in many cases, survivors are unwilling to talk about, or recollect, their traumatic experience because it can cause them acute distress and suffering (Bliech & Solomon, 2002; Herman, 1992). Recovery from PTSD often involves constructing a life story and narration of the event, building memorial sites or producing images, artefacts, etc., enabling the production of personal, familial and communal significance to the traumatic events (Herman, 1992). As Holocaust survivors become older, having created the new generation - their family - and completed their life tasks, they are motivated to recall and construct their memories in the private and public spheres (Baumel, 1998). Vietnam veterans "use private photographs, movies, books, travel trips and the Internet as tools to assist in the ongoing process of remembering. They add their own voice into the social representation system to create representations that further express who they are and to connect with their community. The constructed memory shapes […] [their] present. This in turn modifies their representation of their pasts which become involved in changing the larger social representation system." (Nguyen & Belk, 2007, p. 251).
Commemoration of fallen soldiers in various ways, such as memorial days, monuments, parks etc., is common in many nation states as part of the "Invented Tradition" of nationalism (Hobsbawm, 1999; Mosse, 1990). Many more genres of collective memory representations exist in the popular fields: various rituals, cultural symbols and creations for the fallen soldiers, such as popular songs, TV series, visual signs, special attire, hats, symbols of the military units such as insignia, flags, etc. There is also the high culture field, sometimes in memory of the fallen, but also as critical works of art. Throughout WW1 and its aftermath, for example, German expressionism was a critical art movement opposing military tendencies in Europe, especially in Germany, and represented the horrific consequences of WW1. The Nazis banned this as "Degenerate Art" of "Jews, communists and the mentally ill", (they made a huge exhibition of this type of art3). The artists were imprisoned, many were murdered and some managed to escape (Arieli-Horowitz, 1999). In truth, it was a style containing deep structures of trauma, many by artists who were conscripted, wounded or suffered traumatic consequences, some fallen. The artists expressed horrific images, such as the works by George Grosz4.
The higher classes' elite culture in England, after WW1 - the first phase of commemoration (1919-1925) - was equal and democratic expression with voluntary commemoration ceremonies by civilians countrywide. However, more officers were killed compared to their relative percentage in the army. Hence, the next phase (1925 onwards) was an elitist cultural commemoration, since the elite identified their wounded class with the decline of the empire. In this specific culture, deep structures and residues reminiscent of trauma shape artistic expressions. Thus, the English elite whose aspirations to reproduce itself were unsuccessful, made a prominent cultural impact on high British culture (poetry, literature, etc.) for decades to come (Winter, 1995).
In recent years the media is considered the file in which collective memory is created and disseminated: the print media, radio, cinema and television are the main channels for shaping the collective memory and circulating it to the masses (Neiger, Meyers & Zandberg, 2011). However, in the London 7/7 2005 bombings, remembrance practices penetrated the net, and included a variety of technological communication media such as cellular phones, blogs and internet sites (Reading, 2011) and new kinds of offline "living memorials" as civic centers established by the bereaved families (Allen & Brown, 2011).
Collective memory and remembrance communities in Israel
Before the establishment of the Israeli state, commemoration was usually official. Emanuel Sivan studied the modes of remembrance of the Independence War (29 November 1947 - July 1949) (Sivan, 1991), and found that the prominent way of commemoration was the community’s voluntary activity of creating memorial booklets, which were made for one-third of the fallen - an incredibly high number in comparison to other nations.5 This unique remembrance mode is rooted in the Jewish tradition of recording the victims of various pogroms throughout history in the Jewish community diary (Pinkas Hakehila) (Sivan, 1999; Winter & Sivan, 1999).
Although numerous "Victory Albums" were published immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War6, it took about 30 years for books and films about the 1973 Yom Kippur War to appear. The traumatic events were evidently so severe, that veterans were "silent", and could not talk about the war. Now, some 40 years later, this war’s political and military history has been dealt with in many books published over the past seven years, but with little representation by cultural works.
As in the USA, the UK and other countries, remembrance and memorialisation in recent years are more prominent on the web. Not only are the soldiers commemorated on the web, but many civilian terror victims also have personal and collective sites built and maintained by relatives (Sade-Beck, 2004). Thus the common landscape of personal and collective memory is, to a degree, undergoing a transformation to new media-scapes.
A very important code of war ethics is entwined in Israeli society. Since 1948 when Israel was established, a culture of "Shooting and Crying" (Yorim u-Bochim) began developing, that involves difficult ethical discussions about the morality of war. Even in the War of Independence, soldiers debated whether they needed to expel the Arab residents of conquered villages, or should they leave them in their homes even though they are hostile and can help the enemy (Sivan, 1999; Yizhar, 2008 ). This enduring moral code is now transformed into the web. In the spring of 2004, a group of soldiers who served in Hebron in the occupied territories, launched a website called Shovrim Shtika – “Breaking the Silence” framed by this tradition of "Shooting and Crying" (Gal-Ezer, 2008; Katriel & Sahvit, 2011).
The research question addresses the complex theoretical and empirical interrelations offline and online within the case study - The 14th Tank Brigade veterans’ mnemonic community activities and functions; trying to break their silence, to narrate their traumatic war experiences and include it in the nation’s collective memory, while struggling over their place in the history of the Yom Kippur War.
This ongoing research began on 14 October 2007, while watching and recording the documentary The Brigade that Lay on the Fence broadcast on Israeli TV public Channel 1 and followed by a studio discussion on the date The 14th Brigade website was launched.
The study uses a combined methodology of offline and online multi-sited and multimodal ethnography and netnography (Bourdieu, 2008; Dicks et al. 2006; Geertz, 1973; Kozinets, 2002; Marcus, 1995; Sade-Beck, 2004).
(1) Participant observation offline based on "Thick Description" of Geertz (1973) at The 14th Brigade veterans' community rituals: The Yom Kippur War Remembrance Day in October 2008; a meeting of the 79th Battalion of The 14th Brigade in preparation for the veterans, families and bereaved families' journey to the Yom Kippur War combat zones in the Sinai Desert in October 2008 (the journey took place on 3 - 6. 11. 2008); a conference at the academic college of Tel Aviv- Jaffa 6. 10. 2011; "The Companies’ Evening" - a remembrance ritual 16. 10. 2012.
(2) Ongoing Netnography and multimodal analysis (Dicks et al. 2006; Kozinets, 2002; Sade-Beck, 2004) on The 14th Brigade site from October 2007 – 2012. The observation includes: the websites’ various activities, texts and artefacts, forums, documents, speeches, songs, letters, images, audio, video and visual presentations, etc. The observation included also the independent linked websites of the brigade units.7
(3) Eight in-depth interviews with veterans and historians: General (Res.) Amnon Reshef – Commander of The 14th Brigade during the war; Dr. Amiram Ezov – military historian, author of "Crossing"; Brigadier-General (Res.) Avraham Almog – Commander of 14th Brigade's 184 Battalion; Brigadier-General Ehud Gross – Commander of The 14th Brigade's 79 Battalion company; Colonel (Res.) Rami Matan – Commander of The 14th Brigade's 79 Battalion 7th Company; Zeev Pearl – Commander of The 14th Brigade's 79 Battalion 6th company; Eli - anonymous – combatant in a tank of The 14th Brigade's 184 Battalion; Gaddi – anonymous – a prominent documentary director.
(4) CDA - Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1995) and Multimodal semiotic analysis based also on Barthes (1972), Dicks (et al., 2006) and Schudson (1997), of additional data: documentaries and artefacts: Rashomon – The Chinese Farm (Nir Toib, 2004); The Brigade that Lay on the Fence (Ido Sela, 2007); and other cultural artefacts of the Yom Kippur War such as art, literature, cinema, poetry, popular music, etc.
The collection and categorisation of the multi-sited (Bourdieu, 2008; Marcus, 1995) and multimodal (Dicks et al., 2006) ethnographic data, had been integrated through the varied methods into a "Thick Description" (Geertz, 1973), combined with CDA, semiotics and critical theories. This integrated categorization and analysis shaped the representation of the findings in three levels: the first level - the everyday Israeli cultural codes, which frame the collective memory and remembrance practices; the second level - life and reality of the battlefield and its codes of conduct; and the third level - the nation-state and the historic-political field. The levels are somewhat overlapping fields, so, in a way, the analysis is not "pure" where the presentation of findings is concerned. The language dimension intersecting the fields will be treated through the levels (Barthes, 1972; Dicks, et al. 2006; Fairclough, 1995; Schudson, 1997).
As this journal is a cyberjournal, we can utilise the benefits of the web and click on the links in the footnotes (beginning from footnote 1 onwards), where photographs and videos can be found in several of them: Web YouTubes and videos from The 14th Brigade site etc., which could be considered supplementary to the texts.
1. Israeli culture of collective memory and remembrance
The conversation below took place behind me, as I was sitting in the first row of seats in the auditorium of the Tel-Aviv-Jaffa Academic College attending the first conference ever organised by The 14th Brigade in an academic setting, in an attempt to advance their efforts to write history. Usually their common remembrance meetings take place in Yad La’Shirion - a memorial site and museum of the IDF armoured units. The invitation was disseminated by The 14th Brigade internet site newsletter.
I didn't want to turn round, in order not to disturb the intimacy of the two veterans' conversation in the packed auditorium while waiting for the conference to open on 6 October 2011, the secular date (Western calendar) exactly 38 years after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War.
Avi: I tell you they were lying there bleeding to death; there was a circle of wounded [soldiers].
Uri: I didn’t hear about that.
Avi: 02:00 at night they were already dead.
Uri: I didn’t hear about that.
Avi: You should read Maozia’s book8. It is written there. It’s also written there about me, but they don’t consider that.
Uri: Send me an email about it.
Uri: I am from a kibbutz (name of the kibbutz9)
Avi: Today I was allowed to eat chicken - a hundred grams a week.
Uri: I was unwell for about a month. […] I had pain in my legs. The war was interesting, so I wrote it in a more interesting way in the book.
Avi: On the Yom Kippur War? […]
Many veterans wrote books or booklets about the war, which comprise mixed war depictions and personal memoirs, as portrayed in the above conversation. Official books of the units also exist, and are usually initiated by the commanders, typically including two sections: the specific unit battles' depictions and the fallen soldiers' individual memorial section. There are also books by historians as we shall see later. All the books are listed on the brigade site10.
At 18:00, General (Res.) Amnon Reshef, born 1938 (formerly Colonel, the war commander of The 14th Tank Brigade) speaks: "This evening is the initiative of some young guys, 40 years-old, who wanted to hear about the Yom Kippur War. The Brigade has an internet site, and this conference presents an opportunity for you to donate towards the maintenance of the site and therefore you were asked to participate11. Is there anybody who is unacquainted with the internet site? Please raise your hands". There was no show of hands.
"Now I shall present the programme: Brigadier-General Dr. Dani Asher, who wrote the book 'To Break the Conception', will lecture about the Egyptian army".12 [The title of the lecture was: "Egyptian Army Legacies from the Six-Day War 13- Building the Armed forces and the Fighting Theory of the Yom Kippur War]. "For the past 15 years, Dr. Amiram Ezov has been studying the fighting on the southern front during the Yom Kippur War. The [IDF] History Department published two of his books in the past, [within the ranks of the IDF only, M.G.], and the third one was banned [archived] for egotistical reasons of the History Department. He published the "Crossing" and unbelievably, people keep stopping him on the street to talk to him about his book14. [His lecture topic was: "Main Moves of the Southern Command in the Yom Kippur War", after which Amnon Reshef himself lectured on: "The Battles of the 14th Brigade in the War"]. At the end there will be a panel for discussion and questions with General (Res.) Amnon Reshef; Brigadier-General (Res.) Dr. Dani Asher; Dr. Amiram Ezov; and Brigadier-General (Res.) Avraham Almog [then Colonel] commander of The 14th Brigade 184 Battalion. During the war, a very young war correspondent for Gallei Zahal,15 Amos Ettinger - joined us; and for this conference he asked to write a Makama16– he is on his way to us now". At the end of Reshef's lecture, before the panel, Amos Ettinger stood up on the stage, and read his Makama:
These images you cannot escape.
These hours you cannot forget.
No matter when you arrived or where you were headed,
Yom Kippur War days' in visions you fought,
The war we were unprepared for,
And 38 years have already passed.
And truly, The 14th Brigade fallen names facing our eyes returning standing18;
they are "My Glorious Brothers"19
"The Silver Platter"20 on which the Jewish state was offered for a second time
and these names every year we cherish,
And 38 years have already passed.
In every issue, every duty, every task,
Always this minute returns and shakes,
The memory strings, the heart cords,
The brave story of "Knights of the Heart"21,
Memories in the heart reside
And 38 years have already passed.
38 years passed so fast,
Except for the Yom Kippur War no man here forgets,
The comradeship born in tanks and warriors' hearts
Even though 38 years have already passed.
The original Makama has 23 verses. Only three have been freely translated here. This Makama seems to portray the many heroic acts of the warriors during the devastating battles. When Ettinger ended his presentation of the poem at the conference, many veterans in the audience shouted out: "Put it on the site, on The 14th Brigade site, so we can see it there again". So five days later, it was added to the site with an introduction from Ettinger in order to form the context for the poem, with the heading: "The 14th Brigade Warriors' Meeting Commemorating 38 Years of the Yom Kippur War". The Makama relates to the common discourse of remembrance in which Ettinger has a prominent role. He also reads as a legitimate authority on memorial texts in the annual remembrance day of the Brigade. 22
Of the entire four-hour conference, only a five-minute vignette of its opening is depicted here, and another five minutes or less of Ettinger's Makama reading was portrayed. This ethnographic representation was deliberately intended to narrate the significance of two minor, but prominent, events in the conference, thus these two vignettes can serve as a reflexive viewpoint for the inordinate complexity of the event. Besides the formal aspect of history presented by the two historians and by General Reshef, the conversation at the beginning and the Makama are somewhat opaque; it is the discourse of everyday Israeli memorialisation culture - remembrance practices (the conversation) and a creative expression embedded within the collective memory (the Makama) – which shape the first level of the "Thick Description" based on Geertz (1973), and the first level of the semiotic analysis model – the denotation of Barthes (1972). The footnotes deliberately intend to draw the significance by additional contexts, aiming to form the multimodal ethnography/netnography second level, the culture from within (Geertz, 1973), the connotative meaning (Barthes, 1972). Thus the balance between the text and the notes is uneven, as most of the text is included in the footnotes in an effort to decipher the very condensed coded discourse in which this remembrance community, as well as the core of Israeli society, experience and interpret reality. It should be explained, however, that Israeli popular and high culture is saturated with elegiac expressions, narratives of bereavement, and myths of heroism (Gal-Ezer, 2008). Perhaps, similar to the vast number of fallen in the 1948 Israel War of Independence, which Sivan compared to the losses in WW1, there could also be homologous processes in the Israeli cultural fields that may resemble the English culture of its elite's "Lost Generation", in which deep structures of trauma were major (Winter, 1995). Structures of trauma were found to be deeply embedded in the Israeli plastic arts field, but these are obscured by artistic critical discourse (Gal-Ezer, 2008)23. Israeli cinema shows similar tendencies. Gaddi, (anonymous interviewee) a TV documentary director, interviewed on February 2012, was then working on a new autobiographic documentary for Israeli public TV Channel 1, depicting "the […] most difficult event in my life […] my severe injury in the battlefield […] Being creative is therapeutic for me. I deal a lot in these issues which you could call 'life on the edge' […] I was in a life-threatening situation because of the bleeding and losing a vast amount of blood. The paramedic looking after me made sure our troops wouldn't shoot me […..as well as] the helicopter pilot [who] was decorated because he evacuated us under fire […]."
Ettinger is a pensioner now and Gaddi is still a TV director. Both are creative professionals and war veterans. Both create within the canonic cultural codes of Israeli collective memory repertoire, thus continuing the classic tradition from 1948 and earlier. These cultural codes entwined by traumatic reminiscence are saturated within the memorial sections of The 14th Brigade internet site and are in compliance with the Israeli hegemonic collective memory.
2. Comradeship earned in blood – the real life of the battlefield
Two events are represented in this part of the findings. In the first one, the comradeship code was broken, and then reassembled. In the second event it is the "Song of Comradeship". What is remarkable here is that in the first event the commander didn’t give permission for the rescue of a comrade, maybe because of the extreme conditions in the battlefield, and in the second event, the commander didn't give permission either for the rescue of the wounded, but the officer Rami Matan didn't obey him. Another very significant divide differentiates between these two events: the first one is depicted by an anonymous interviewee Eli, who was a combatant of The 14th Brigade, and is not a participant in the remembrance community because he can not bear the memories; the second event is drawn from The 14th Brigade site testimony by the interviewee colonel (Res.) Rami Matan.
Below is a relatively long quote from Eli, a "silent" anonymous interviewee, who was a young soldier in The 14th Brigade's 184 Tank Battalion. Eli is now married with children, established in life with a professional standing and a fine career in the media field:
The battle on the Televisia Taoz [fortress] took place on the fifth day of the war. We lost and the Egyptians attacked us from behind, and my friend was left abandoned on the battlefield. I pleaded with the commander to rescue my wounded friend. He didn't let me, so I took hold of the commander and wanted to hit him. In the end my friend was declared missing and his family were going crazy. After half a year they thought they found a bone, it was a saga of a total madness.
[…] I was a very young boy, about 19 plus, and my friends and I were very happy when the war broke out, because we thought that we are going to "break into them"24 and we would come back home like in the Six-Day War, a march of the tanks in the city streets and the girls would gaze into our eyes and throw flowers at us.25
For me and for most of my friends, it was something on that level, not a holocaust, Auschwitz, but on that level26. Personally, I went through some very hard experiences, Battalion 184 - the battalion that was the most annihilated - every year they get together – these remaining 20 veteran warriors of the battalion. Every year they ask me to come, they send me invitations. In 2003 [30 years after the war] they tried again, and now they don’t call me anymore, they’ve given up. Once a year there is a ritual in Latrun27, but I could never make myself go.
I built a wall around myself. I can't and don't want to get into it. There are times that I carry the war ten times a day. Sometimes if I go to a social event, suddenly it bursts out.
[and suddenly a long monolog without stopping, the visions flowing continuously as if in one lungful of air, as if the interviewee was flooded, experiencing flashes from the war (Bleich & Solomon, 2002; Herman, 1992)].
The war was a constitutive event in my life, because of this horrific situation in which I found myself, coping with that horrible death, and you are being shot at all time, and you shoot and become a human beast – you see I can’t bear it, so I decided that I would shut down, only six tanks remained of the entire brigade […] we were in the "Chinese Farm" where the leftovers of the brigade were destroyed [here is a long depiction of traumatic war horrors] I had accepted that I was dead […] that was when I lost my human image.28
[A colonel and reservists who joined his unit had looked after him] These reservists adopted me as their project, trying to bring me back to this world […] and this story had a happy end – because I came back to the normative world and I live an ordinary normal life.
This narrative has an inner order. It was obvious that the interviewee didn't want to talk about the war. He said: "I built a wall around myself […]". And then after the cognitive appreciative sentence: "The war was a constitutive event in my life, because of this horrific situation in which I found myself", he is totally on a course of diving into the traumatic events which he can't stop (Bleich & Solomon, 2004; Herman, 1992). Eli told the researcher that his brother reads everything he can get his hands on about the war, in order to understand where Eli was, because Eli himself avoids triggers such as reading and dealing with anything about the war. At the time of the interview Eli's brother was in the middle of Amiram Ezov’s book, "Crossing", and was trying to convince Eli to read the book. Eli said: "My brother told me that he can't put the book down. He was trying to persuade me to read it, he told me that there were no horrors in the book, 'You can read it' he said to me". Eli’s brother seems to be taking care of him and gives him strength, and serves as mediator between Eli and the remembrance community and war history in which Eli can't participate.
At the end of the interview Eli said: "[…] When we came back, we were wounded, our souls were aching, I was also wounded [physically] in the battle, and who looked at us? Who cared for us? Nobody! We were left alone by ourselves". It took time until the army arranged psychological treatment for the soldiers. This may be the reason that Eli was not treated psychologically, but even if he had been, there is no guarantee the treatment would have been successful (Bleich & Solomon, 2002).
Even in veterans who were healthy for years, PTSD can occur for the first time after 30 or 40 years (Herman, 1992; Winter & Sivan, 1999). There are many soldiers like Eli who are "silent", thus "closed" the war and went on with their normal daily lives. This "functional repression" (Kaminer, 1993) or their "divided habitus" (Bourdieu, 2004; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004) can help them conduct normal lives even though they seem to be traumatised by the war. On the other hand, there is a possibility that Eli won’t keep his silence in the future, and when he feels quite safe, accomplishing his life tasks, Eli will "break the wall" around him, speak up and join his comrades in the remembrance community to struggle for their place in history.
Following is the second event represented in this section, which is one example of many presented on The 14th Brigade site and in the other brigade units' sites. Under the extreme conditions of the battles, within the horrors, a supreme bravery is depicted here by all the people involved in the rescue operation. Stories such as these abounded in the war. The bravery of the common soldiers and young officers led to the turnaround in the war that night - the night between the 15th and 16th October 1973 when the "Chinese Farm" was conquered by The 14th Brigade - and this is the focus of the public dispute between the Brigade and the paratroopers. Whereas the high command should have collected all the data of the battlefield on a minutely basis, here we can imagine the sights and deeds from a very narrow viewpoint - that of a tank company. This event is slightly condensed but still detailed, because these are the minutiae of life and death. By these depictions the veterans can again find the comradeship, and the bereaved families can find their beloved one in the context of his co-soldiers who did everything they could to rescue their comrades.
The battle of the Chinese Farm, the rescue of the wounded and the drawings of Kobi Lapid – the story of Rami Matan (30. 2. 2009)
The 7th Company […] fought throughout the entire war and participated in all the significant battles in the 79/196 battalion - The 14th Brigade 29. One of the highlights of the war was breaking into the Chinese Farm […] - a vast fortified Egyptian compound with trenches, tank positions, infantry positions, missile batteries, etc. […] A few hours before the deadline, Yaron Givati, a tank gunner, approached me and asked to talk to me. We moved aside and there he said: "Please promise me that you will bring me home alive". […] Today I know that I was a child of 22 years-old and he was a child of 20. I hugged him, and tried to give him a sense of faith in our ability to win, and then we separated, each to his own tank. At about 02:00 that night, Yaron Givati was killed.
15th October […] at about 18:00 we were moving towards the operation in a long impressive brigade convoy […] the company had 6 tanks and a 1 Service APC (Armoured mechanic Personnel, spare parts and repair equipment Carrier).
[M.G. excerpt: During this long night’s heavy battles, commanders and soldiers were wounded, many were killed, some were evacuated, and others were waiting to be rescued. Tanks were successively hit by the Egyptians, one tank fell into a trench, another drove over a mine, another collided with another tank, thus rendering many tanks non-operative].
[…] we opened fire […] destroyed everything in our way – tanks, infantry, tracks and anti-tank batteries at very short range. […] The whole area was on fire […] casualties were increasing. […] it was the entrance to the Chinese Farm […]
We were securing a line [now the commander was Nathan…] and after Nathan’s authorisation I sent Yaron Pik and Yiftach Yaakov to rescue Shai Lifshitz’s team 2A and the team of Eli Machleb’s halftrack. Yaron and Yiftach were heading north, Yaron positioned himself as a cover-up, and Yiftach reached the wounded combatants, lifted them onto his tank and began moving, in this phase Yaron's tank was hit and began burning, I saw the hit and I told Yiftach Yaakov to move and rescue the team, Yaakov moved in their direction but he was hit also though not yet burning. I saw what was happening, so I reported to Nathan and told him I was going to rescue them. In practice mine was the only tank left in the company. Nathan and I discussed the rescue, and in the end I moved in to rescue them without his permission.
I had a very bad feeling. I knew that all that I learnt as a human being, as a soldier, as a commander and as a company commander in the battle, and everything I had taught my soldiers in the company and during courses would be coming together in this rescue. The decision to go and rescue my wounded soldiers was the most important decision of my whole life. All the essence of my living was being summarised and consolidated in these moments. I moved out and reached the zone where the wounded were lying and began to lift them up onto the tank, the unhurt soldiers helped the wounded and the tank was loaded with people on the turret and on the deck, and inside the tank. Suddenly I got the feeling that a tank was targeting me and shooting at short range (in front of my tank). I was in a horrible dilemma. Should I go on rescuing the wounded soldiers thereby endangering the entire rescue operation, or should I move back to the battalion's medical station with the wounded on the tank and then go out for a second round of rescue? The decision was made and I moved back, reached the medical station, took down the wounded and went back to the rescue zone. This time I took another tank with me, the tank of Ze’ev Madjigorsky whose gunner was Berty Ochayon. We reached the point, we took those who were left there and returned to the medical station. The tank that nearly hit us was destroyed by Ze’ev’s tank.
By this time we realised that […] Platoon Commander Yaakov Yiftach had been left on the battlefield. We went back there for the third time with my tank, Ze’ev’s tank and the communication commander’s APC, to bring Yiftach back. But when we reached the area we couldn't find him. Without any command or instruction Berty Ochayon jumped off the cannon's cabin of Ze’ev’s tank, and, in an individual mission embedded in a supreme individual act of bravery which deserves great appreciation, he walked around searching for Yiftach. The area was full of corpses of Egyptian soldiers; […] all red from the fires and the torched burning vehicles. Berty passed corpse after corpse and found a very original way to find out who is who. He simply asked [in Hebrew]: "Are you a Jew?" If there was no answer or the answer was unclear, he understood that he had to go on searching. At last he reached Yiftach and when he asked him: "Are you a Jew?" Yiftach answered him: "Yes, but it is very difficult to be a Jew". Yiftach was severely wounded and lost consciousness intermittently. Berty dragged him by his overall strip and brought him to the tank. Rami Golan, a big man, caught Yiftach and lifted him onto the tank. And thus with Yiftach on the tank, we came back and completed the rescue assignment of the 7th company – ‘Zigi’. In the rescue operation 3 wounded soldiers were rescued inside the tank, and 11 wounded and 2 fallen on the tank deck – and Yiftach Yaakov, the other wounded, on the tank of Zeev Madjikorski and Berty Ochayon.30
[…] I thank the team and the company I had the honour to command in this war.
Colonel (Res.) Rami Matan commander of 7th (Zigi) company in the Yom Kippur War.
Kobi Lapid, a gunner in the tank led by Rami Matan, the 7th company commander, kept a diary throughout the entire war. The diary with his drawings is presented on the site and readers can turn its pages.31
"He who saves one soul, it is as though he saved an entire world": this Jewish statement which originates in the Talmud, 32 is an old traditional rule or basic norm, which is also prominent in the new Israeli culture. This deep norm of the highest value of even one person, who is compared to the whole world, is a deep inner cultural structure of the strict military norm of not leaving anyone wounded or killed on the battlefield, even under the most extreme circumstances33. The heroic rescue event, represented here, which is one of many34, reflects the basic cultural codes of conduct in Israeli society, based on the ancient Jewish codes of solidarity and the supreme value of life. These values - ultimate solidarity and distinguished humane behavior - are the deep structures and messages conveyed by the cybersite of The 14th Brigade – the sacred values of the ancestors: the "Canonic Generation" of the Independence War 1948 (Ben-Ze`ev & Lomsky-Feder, 2009) and their 1973 descendants.
Although the events in the personal testimonies, such as those of Rami Matan in the brigade's site, are narrated and structured as myths (Barthes, 1972), the "actual" offline community, in which "the comradeship earned in blood" was engraved on the battlefield, is not as integrated as the rescue operations reflect. Rami Matan is one of the leaders of the remembrance community and its enduring struggle on history, whereas Eli does not participate at all. Some veterans, even high-ranking commanders, who were very brave in the battlefield, do not even attend remembrance days, nor do they participate in the online community, and are criticised by other commanders for not even keeping in touch with the bereaved families. They do not comply with the comradeship norm and its covert unwritten code of conduct that an IDF commander should take care of the bereaved families of the fallen soldiers under his command as an enduring life mission, something that has been done for the past 38 years by many of the brigade commanders. This is the basic structure of solidarity in these offline remembrance communities.
Transformations seem to have taken place over the years since the war. Veterans who were common soldiers, have become leaders and active in the integration of the community. For instance, Berty Ochayon, who was then "only" a tank commander, is now one of the leaders who wrote a book, and was one of the organisers of the veterans and bereaved families' journey to the Sinai Desert35. Whether he is a leader because he was an autonomous brave leader in the war as previously mentioned, or because he was a very high ranking officer in the Israeli police, or because now he is retired he has more free time, is unclear.
The brigade units' web sites are constantly expanding and some commanders feel a responsibility to advance their site for the remembrance community of their battalion36. But nevertheless, "the headquarters", The 14th Brigade site, is in the hands of General Reshef, and the veterans talk about him as a sacred persona, with deep respect and appreciation, while he himself is very modest but sharp and intelligent.
The community of remembrance is turning into writing history, as time passes. The remaining parents of the fallen soldiers are now in their eighties and nineties, and in general the bereaved families now consist of brothers, sisters and children. This generation is now preserving the remembrance community. The online community also includes other war veterans, general Israeli public, students and pupils, as well as many people from abroad and even from Arab countries who are very interested in The 14th Brigade’s unique extensive historical section (a list of online guests according to their states can be seen in a chart on the site). 37
3. The State and the Law – the struggle from remembrance towards history
General (Res.) Amnon Reshef responded to the requests of his veteran officers and soldiers (the study interviewees), and the bereaved families, to speak out for their shared cause and represent The 14th Brigade’s crucial battles in the Sinai Desert which were critical for the dramatic triumph over the Egyptian army. Reshef asked public TV Channel 1 to prepare a documentary film about the fighting of The 14th Brigade in the Yom Kippur War. The channel’s CEO Yair Aloni agreed and the veteran commanders and soldiers of the brigade were willing interviewees, providing documents and whatever else they could to ensure the success of the film. They thought it would be a great opportunity for the public to be exposed to the war history and their crucial part in it. Before the date of the TV broadcast, a public screening took place for the veterans and the bereaved families in Yad La’Shirion38 on 25th September 2007. The veterans were very disappointed as they watched the disorganised documentary, which lacked the crucial historic facts and was full of unrelated artistic pretensions, and decided to appeal to the Supreme Court to prohibit the documentary broadcast. On 14th October 2007 (the war broke out on 6th October 1973), Supreme Court Justice Ms. Dorit Beinish, although very sympathetic, decided that there was no justifiable legal reason to prohibit the public TV broadcast of the documentary directed by Ido Sela "The Brigade that Lay on the Fence" 39 (The 14th Brigade site).
As with other sensitive issues under public dispute, the CEO of public Channel 1 decided to broadcast the film as it was, and to add to it a public discussion by in-service officer, Dr. Amiram Ezov, General (Res.) Amnon Reshef and Brigadier-General (Res.) Avraham Almog, (the three were interviewed for this study). However, although the film was very superficial, and the appeal for the Supreme Court to ban the broadcast failed, it seems that this documentary, and the subsequent TV public discussion, led to publicity of these disputes and increased public awareness of the war fought by The 14th Brigade, and its claims of truth. The day of the documentary broadcast saw the launching of The 14th Brigade web site.
General (Res.) Reshef40 said in the interview that his brigade had the highest number of fallen soldiers in the IDF, and 18 units, the highest number, under his command. He spoke in detail about all the fallen and the exact numbers in every unit: "A bereaved mother does not know all the complexities of the command and the affiliations of the units. Thus we are commemorating 415 fallen soldiers and each one of them has an individual site".
M.G.: But why an internet site?
G.R.41: After the documentary broadcast on television I gathered the commanders who were furious with it and we discussed the possibilities in the meeting:
1) A book – if you write a book telling about the brigade’s fighting there will also be commemoration and if we shall give every fallen soldier [a total of 415] half a page we will reach about 200 pages; and I said that this is not a solution.
2) The second option was a documentary film and the question was how to commemorate everyone?
3) I convinced the commanders to build an internet site which would provide a good solution for the needs. And then I planned the site with two sections: one for commemoration and the other for history. From then on I became the manager of the site, and I have a technical assistant. We are short of money.
M.G.: What were your skills in computers then?
G.R: I was using the computer at a specific level, I was assisted by people and from an intellectual point of view I had rational thinking.
M.G.: [I was very impressed by the high standard of the site, so spontaneously I asked General Reshef] - What did you learn?
G.R.: I learned how to fight.
M.G.: [I was so surprised at this self-reflexiveness, it was a kind of an irony or even a black joke] Really, what discipline did you study?
G.R.: I studied history at Tel Aviv University.
Reshef’s answer about the computer was very similar to those of other interviewees about these matters. They considered themselves not fully skilled with computers, but they managed to use computers and the internet. Born in the 1940's-1950's, according to Volkmer (2003) they should be the 'black-and-white-television' generation, born between 1954-1959 ("formative" years between 1965-1975). But Israeli television’s first broadcast was in 1968. After the ceasefire of the Yom Kippur war, in November 1973, Israeli television enlarged its broadcast reportages from the front lines which were quiet then. Thus, it seems that this generational unit’s formative years were "actual" in the Yom Kippur War 1973 (Mannheim, 1952 ), and truly they were in-between the former print/radio generation and the TV generation (Volkmer, 2003).
However, adults can use computers and the web for various functions, and they do not suffer from the Digital Divide. It is assumed that their socio-economic and health statuses were relatively good (Nimrod, 2012). Hence, this retired military elite generational unit is educated and has high cultural and academic capital, although some, such as Reshef and Almog, could be considered as professional military officers, having served for about 35 years in the army, which in those days, had a distinctive spirit of excellence, as Reshef said: "from an intellectual point of view I had a rational thinking". Besides their academic education, these veterans are devoted book readers, for instance, I interviewed Almog at his home, where he has a big library in the living room. Among the veteran interviewees are people in the media, a former city mayor, the former chief education commander of the army, etc. who have as well academic education.
This process, i.e. the ability of people with high cultural and academic capital who read books, to use computers in a relatively easy mode, and to close the "generation gap", is also found by Nossek & Adoni (2001). These elite (about 58 -75 years old) belong to a generation in which the army was the duty of the state-serving elite, the children of the founding generation – the Canonic Generation (Ben Ze'ev & Lomsky-Feder, 2009). Then, in the 1950's-1970's - the first two decades of the newly-born state of Israel (1948) - many young people went to the army as an ideology and as obedience to the cause of national survival. Thus, as was clear from the interview with Reshef and from continuous participant observation, netnography, and analysis of texts, the internet site is a vast effort, not only as a memorial for the fallen, but a very serious attempt to record the history of the battles of The 14th Brigade.
Description of the brigade fighting in the Yom Kippur war
The defense battles - A – 6 - 8. 10. 1973
By Amnon Reshef – General
The first 24 hours of the war
6. 10. 73 - Yom Kippur afternoon
At 13:47 the "wailer" siren was heard (a warning siren helps to detect enemy airplanes' entering Israel's air space). At 13:55 a massive artillery bombardment by the Egyptian artillery began over the entire canal zone; more than 1,100 Egyptian cannons were firing! 128 enemy airplanes bombed crucial targets in our zone, including the headquarters of the 184th Tank Battalion [the brigade force] in Tassa, where the brigade had its initial casualties. The Sinai Desert was shaking from the pounding of the Egyptian bombardment […] 42
This is the opening paragraph of the lengthy, detailed, chronologically accurate description of the fighting of The 14th Brigade. Another paragraph on the first page describes:
About 80,000 Egyptian soldiers were fighting with five infantry divisions, each strengthened by a tank division, commando units and anti-tank missile units. In addition, the Egyptians reserved two armoured divisions and two more vehicle divisions on the west bank of the Suez Canal.
The main Egyptian forces included:
1. 2,200 medium-size tanks
2. 2,900 APC's (Armoured Personnel Carriers).
3. About 2,400 cannons.
4. About 800 missile launching systems.
The ratio from which the Egyptians benefitted in the confrontation line was 1:36 soldiers. In front of 1,200 Egyptian tanks and hundreds of anti-tank resources, the IDF only placed some 85 tanks (a ratio of 1:14). In the artillery the ratio was 1:40. The zone of every Israeli tank battalion was nearly 50 kilometers in which it had to contend with forces of two Egyptian divisions. 43
These devastating numbers and the shocking ratio between the IDF and the Egyptian army, and the equivalent ratios on the northern front between the IDF and the Syrians in the Yom Kippur War are unknown to the public even today. Although many men were reservists in the army, and even fought in the Yom Kippur War, only the highest-ranking commanders have the full picture of the battles. These data have not been divulged to the Israeli public until now. The full official picture of the war has not been published yet by the IDF even though 38 years have already passed. In February 2012, the IDF archive announced the publication of more investigative books by the Agranat Enquiry Commission. Now finally, six volumes of the commission are open to the public with only a few details censored. 44
The interesting fact about The 14th Brigade site is what is written at the bottom of the pages dealing with the description of the brigade’s fighting in the Yom Kippur War:
Written [by]: General Amnon Reshef – Commander of The 14th Brigade in the Yom Kippur War.
Confirmed [by]: IDF History Department
Edited [by]: Brigadier-General (Res.) Baruch Korot and Brigadier-General (Res.) Dr. Dani Asher.
Thus it seems that the first confirmed history of the Yom Kippur War to which the Israeli public has access is this internet site, which was opened in 2007.
One of the interviewees for this study was Dr. Amiram Ezov, a historian, who had been working for about 15 years at the IDF History Department (1995-2009), since 2009 as a civilian scholar, he had been studying and writing, and published the "Crossing” in June 2011.
M.G.: In your book the "Crossing" there are footnotes in which you direct readers to the internet site of The 14th Brigade, can you tell me about it?
A.E.: […] no sites exist like this one, in which people have been making such a comprehensive and successive effort to document history. A historian can use these materials, the collected documents, the operation diaries of the high command, protocols, etc. These sources and documents on the brigade site are excellent sources and the public have free and convenient access to it, thus I direct readers to the site.
M.G.: What are the functions of this site?
A.E.: These people [the veterans] wanted to have their voices heard, to tell the public what they have done. They felt deprived of their merit. […] and they felt - if not now, when? […] The combatants who were then 20 years old are now aged 60, otherwise they would be forgotten.
This is also in defiance of the contemporary situation – over the past six or seven years there has been momentum in regard to the Yom Kippur War; an urge for documentation and reconstruction of that war – this is the war about which the first book - The Mehdal [failure] - was written, they emerged from this war with their wounds and furious anger and went home without victory albums and were told they didn't live up to expectations. Today the wheel is turning in the other direction – you saved the State of Israel.
Hundreds of people were phoning me, I was the mouthpiece for hundreds! They told me: "We couldn't sleep since the war, and after we read the book we slept".
This case study of the 1973 Yom Kippur War - The 14th Brigade internet site - reflects the process of the transformation of the remembrance community towards writing history and culture in the web space. Although this "Silent Generation" unit, born between the 1940's and 1950's was not a "media generation" of computers and the internet, not even a television generation (Bolin & Westlund, 2009; Herring, 2008; Volkmer, 2003), as it entered Israel lately in 1968; they had high cultural capital, which enables most of them to bridge the media "generation divide" and to gain computer and internet skills based on their primary cultural capital (Adoni & Nossek, 2001; Nimrod, 2012), and even to some extent become a "Generation C" (Kalmus, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Runnel & Siibak, 2009) and to create a distinctive cyber-historic-psy-site.
This "Generational Unit" (Mannheim, 1952 ) - the Yom Kippur warriors - are not a reflection of the entire Israeli society, but a generational unit that carried on their shoulders the "actual" burden of one the bloodiest wars of Israel, second only to the Independence War - 1948 (Sivan, 1991; 1993; 1999). Their "social location" (Mannheim, 1952 ) and "national habitus" (Bourdieu, 2004; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004; Pickel, 2004) were formed by the "Canonic Generation" unit of their parents who fought the 1948 Independence War (Ben Ze'ev & Lomski-Feder, 2009); their parents delivered to their "inheritors" the legitimate national and cultural capital (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1979; Gal-Ezer, 2008) of Israeli society - interwoven within the Hebrew culture, its ideology, institutional norms and values, collective memory and remembrance practices, which intersect most of Israeli daily life worlds (Bar-on, 1999; Ben Amos & Bet El, 1999).
The warriors' legitimate national habitus framed their individual and group conduct in the war: the ethos of heroism, accountability, the officers leadership, comradeship, sacrifice, masculinity – all these were the leading forces to overcome the enemies. At the same time, the warriors experienced the betrayal of the political and military elites, who sent them to horrific deadly battles unequipped, unprepared and with enormous inferiority facing the superiority of the enemy. They were thrown into devastating extreme conditions in which the legitimate code of their ethos was crushed, and they were forced with inhuman efforts to keep to their habitus consciousness. They had to endure the inability to rescue some of the wounded, who were doomed to death, to see piles of comrades burned to death, to be humiliated and tortured as POWs, to experience fire burns, wounds of the body and the soul, to obey unbelievable commands such as "each to his own", and in spite of all these, they continued fighting until they succeeded in crossing the Suez Canal, enforcing a siege on the second and third Egyptian Armies and coercing the Egyptians to request a ceasefire.
After the war, many had a traumatic burden on various levels (Kaminer, 1993; Lomski-Feder, 1994;), and became a "Silent Generation", acting according to their divided habitus (Bourdieu, 2004; Bourdieu & Sayad, 2004; Gal-Ezer, 2008). This "Silent Generation" began to feel an urgent drive to write their trauma and transform it into history, when they were about 50 years old, wanting to provide their heritage to their "Inheritors", their children (Baumel, 1995; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1979; Gal-Ezer, 2008; Nguyen & Belk, 2007), and to achieve the public recognition that they thought they deserved. Now, the 14th Brigade veterans have to struggle for the symbolic capital of the military canonic heritage, to claim their legitimate heroism, to penetrate Israeli public opinion and the core of the legitimate collective memory, and the legitimate culture.
Although television is considered a prime authoritative media memory institution (Neiger, Meyers & Zandberg, 2011), in this case-study, television is powerless to voice the veterans’ truth claims and assist their struggle to write history. Thus the decision to launch the site on the web enabled the remembrance community leadership to plan, accomplish and operate the site, while having complete control and autonomy of it, and they willingly gave the management of it to their admired commander General (Res.) Amnon Reshef, thus empowering this community with the democratic possibilities of the network society by building a public sphere (Van Dijk, 2010), and enhancing commemoration practices on the web (Allen & Brown, 2011; Reading, 2011).
The website of The 14th Brigade is a cyber-psy-site which holds and nurtures the burden of remembrance, thus providing a modicum of comfort to the bereaved families who have daily access to their fallen loved ones. The fallen now have the right contexts in which they were killed, because "all the information is accurate, clear and open" (according to Reshef, Ezov and the brigade commanders). Thus the fallen death is not insignificant, but a part of a courageous battle to overcome the enemy army. The site helps the veterans, their families and the bereaved families to reflect on their lives, enabling them to read, see and hear the war, and giving them the opportunity to participate themselves by adding various stories, photographs, artefacts, testimonies and to engage in forums, comments and responses which are uncensored. Therefore these historic coherent and accurate battle descriptions help them narrate their traumatic experiences and empower their contributions to Israeli society’s national security (Bleich & Solomon, 2002; Herman, 1992; Nguyen & Belk, 2007). The veterans’ remembrance community is slowly accumulating their legitimate symbolic capital and can now proudly transfer it to future generations.
The site also functions as a "living historical centre" - a digital web library and media centre - with many studies of the war, official documentation such as the Agranat National Enquiry Commission, government war protocols, battle maps, photographs, print media reportages, videos, the transcribed military communication network of The 14th Brigade in the war, chapters of books in Arabic by the Egyptian commanders translated into Hebrew, veterans’ testimonies, and more. The cultural artefacts such as poems, diaries, drawings and paintings are impressive.
This case study reveals the complex interrelation structure and its multilayered intersection of morality, society, history, culture, remembrance, war, trauma, generation, and media technology; it reflects the human ability to overcome war and deep trauma, to learn new skills in adulthood, to negotiate and create culture and a democratic public sphere by means of the open opportunities of the internet. This process of the enduring construction of the community of remembrance and history cyber-site enables veteran citizens who struggle against powerful apparatuses such as the state political and military elites, to overcome denial and alienation. By building their site and nurturing their remembrance community, this generational unit of the Silent Generation is empowering itself and gaining back its silenced leadership. However, now these elite has been transformed from a military elite to a moral and social leadership, a tribe of mature wise people, which Israeli society - in one of its most critical situations, drifting without a trusted leadership - needs so urgently. These people are setting up a new/old model of the classic canonic leadership of the Hebrew Israeli serving elite.
1. Israeli soldiers wrongly saw Japanese characters on the agriculture equipment as Chinese, thus the area being labeled 'Chinese Farm' on Israeli military maps (The 14th Brigade Site)
2. The syndrome can be studied at the USA Department of Veterans Affairs - National Center for PTSD http://www.ptsd.va.gov/. Natal is an Israeli civil society organisation for the treatment of "National Trauma" and PTSD http://www.natal.org.il/English/?CategoryID=225
3. The Degenerate Art Exhibition, Munich 1937 http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/highlights/bryan/video/detail.php?content=germany_art
4. George Grosz (1893-1959). Some of Grosz’s works and an essay can be found on the MoMA Site http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A2374&page_number=1&template_id=6&sort_order=1
5. Only about 30% of the women volunteers were conscripted in comparison to about 66% of the men. The fallen women were 108 soldiers which equalled 2.2% of the total IDF fallen soldiers (Sivan, 1991).
6. Six-Day War – the Knesset (Israeli parliament) site
Rona Sela curated an exhibition about the Six-Day War in the Petah Tikva Museum of Art http://www.ronasela.com/en/details.asp?listid=3
7. 79 Battalion; 87 Patrolling Battalion; 600 Division; 421 Division; 424 Patrolling unit Shakked; 10th Company of 79 Battalion; The Bravery Site [a voluntary site of The 14th Brigade Veterans]; and related sites: IDF Bravery site; Armoured Forces site; IDF archive; The Paratrooper Heritage site and other sites of veterans on the web such as the Milstein forum (a military historian), and more.
8. Maozia Segal was severely wounded in the Chinese Farm battles, was decorated for his bravery and wrote a book "'Voices Across the Dunes': Paratroopers’ Bloody Battle at the Chinese Farm" (Hebrew) 2007.
9. Kibbutz - The military, political, cultural elites of the Israeli nation during the years 1910 – 1980 belonged to the Kibbutzim - ideological agricultural and industrial communal settlements in the rural area of Israel. Now they are transforming their economic practices to neo-liberalism.
10. A list of books about the Yom Kippur War 1973 and The 14th Brigade battles. http://www.hativa14.org.il/?CategoryID=335&ArticleID=353
11. The average donation was about 50 shekels (approximately 10 Euros), and it seemed that everybody gave a donation during the break.
12. The book "The Egyptian Strategy for the Yom Kippur War: An Analysis" (MacFarland Publishers, 2009) was originally published on the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War (2003) in Hebrew by Ma'arachot, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] publishing house, titled: "To Break the Conception". In 2004 it was awarded the Yitzhak Sadeh Prize by the Center for Defense Studies. http://www.amazon.com/Egyptian-Strategy-Yom-Kippur-ebook/dp/B002VUBC9U
13. Six-Day War, see note 6.
14. A link to Bar-Joseph’s review of Ezov's "Crossing". http://www.haaretz.com/culture/books/on-one-of-israel-s-most-controversial-battle-campaigns-1.388512.
15. Meaning "IDF Waves"- the Israeli Army Radio. This trendy station features popular music and news and survived many disputes and closing trials, claiming that a democratic state should not have an army radio, which is characteristic of dictatorships. But in the open and free Israeli public sphere, a station broadcasting indoctrination and propaganda would not survive anyway. Many of Israel’s best journalists began their career there and many distinguished journalists still have a personal programme on the channel.
16. Makama: a variety of Arab prose of a highly elaborate and artificial nature; […] Makāma in the old language was the name for the assembly of the tribe […] Brockelmann, C.. "Makāma." Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936).
In Hebrew, many idioms, concepts, slang words in daily talk, were received from the Arabic.
17. Ettinger's Makama/poem echoes the canonic elegiac heroic poem of the Israel national poet Haim Guri, "The Song of Comradeship" (Shir Hare'ut) set to music by Sacha Argov, and written in 1948 during the Independence War. The last verse is:
"And we shall remember everyone
The handsome forelock and image
because this comradeship forever
Our heart will not forget,
A love consecrated in blood".
(Free translation, M.G.).
We can use the benefits of the web and listen to the song in its original musical composition by Sacha Argov, sung by the army song troupe - "Lahakat HaNahal", established in 1950. The Russian influence is very prominent in the melody and song style, typifying Israeli popular music, as popular and high culture in general contained deep influences of Russian culture; because until the 1970's, the Labour Movement had the political and cultural hegemony in Israel, since its veteran members were the nation's founding fathers and the serving elite - the 4-5 establishing generations – from the 1880's to the 1970's. The musical performance is from 1971, two years before the Yom Kippur War. The beautiful black-haired singer with the braids is Yardena Arazi, the then-commander of the troupe. She became a leading Israeli singer, as did many others in the troupe who became famous singers, musicians and actors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw8-CVakruA
18. The underlying sensitive shaky feelings, even flooding of visions returning, standing, echoing processes caused by the war’s traumatic experiences. The creation of the poem-Makama shapes the disturbing returning visions to a more coherent narrative – a myth, which is also a self- therapeutic and comforting, an empowering action in reaction to the flashes and repeated interferences of the troubled memory (Barthes, 1972; Herman, 1992; Bliech & Solomon, 2002; Nguyen & Belk, 2007).
19. "My Glorious Brothers" is a book written in 1948 by the American Jewish author Howard Fast. http://www.amazon.com/My-Glorious-Brothers-Howard-Fast/dp/0891905790
20. "The Silver Platter" one of the most canonic poems of Israeli nationality, was written by Nathan Alterman on 19 December 1947, three weeks after the declaration by the United Nations on 29 November 1947, at the beginning of the Independence War (November 1947 – July 1949). It became a canonic poem read every Remembrance Day of the Fallen. Here in the link is the English translation of this poem which was transformed into myth. http://www.phy6.org/outreach/poems/alterman.htm
In the next link is a musical version of it by Yehoram Gaon, a popular national singer. It seems that this clip was intended for national-religious soldiers, who don't "mix" with female-soldiers, thus the director "forgot" that in the poem are a young girl and a boy who are "The Silver Platter":
When across from it step out
Towards it slowly pacing
In plain sight of all
A young girl and a boy
Noam Edry - a young Israeli artist (dressed with a silver overall in the video) is challenging the "Silver Platter" and the Israeli militaristic culture, as the avant-garde tradition of critical art, articulated also in German Expressionism, in a very provocative feminist performance at the Ein Harod Museum of Art in Kibbutz Ein Harod. http://www.museumeinharod.org.il/english/exhibitions/2012/noam_edry/
21. "Knights of the Heart" - codenamed ”Abirei Lev” - is the military’s most difficult and bloody IDF operation ever (15-18 October 1973) fought by The 14th Brigade and other units which led to the strategic turning point of the war by the crossing of the Suez Canal. A book of The 14th Brigade's 184 battalion entitled the same (Hebrew), written by Michelson, E. 2003, the IDF Publishing house ,was initiated by Major-General Avraham Almog the 184th Battalion commander in the war.
22. Amos Ettinger, a journalist in the war, and later one of the prominent Israeli television directors and journalists, had a personal programme called Such a Life, in the American and English format, in which he hosted politicians and high military commanders for many years. Ben Amos and Bourdon somewhat criticised this attitude, contending that in Britain and the USA it was an entertainment programme with common people and in Israel it was more didactic and severe, although very popular. It appears they didn't know his military biography of Yom Kippur (Ben-Amos & Bourdon, 2011). At the next link, in a video, Ettinger is reading the Makama, while edited inserts- "flashes"- the war photographs are seen. http://www.hativa14.org.il/?CategoryID=1200&ArticleID=1236
23. Uri Katzenstein, a famous Israeli artist takes fresh blood out of his veins and draws on the wall with it. These body performances recur in various manners, and one such performance was carried out in the Israeli pavilion at the Giardini at the Venice biennale, 2001. Katzenstein was a young paramedic in the Yom Kippur War, when a severe bombardment by the Egyptian army killed many Israeli paratroopers, and he was feeling helpless. After the war he was treated for his PTSD and cured, but deep structures of trauma are embedded in his artistic work as can be seen in this link, as he draws on the walls with his blood. http://www.tracegallery.org/old/artists/Uri_Katzenstein/index.htm
24. A slang idiom – Lehicaness bahem – meaning: to break into them, to break them.
25. Eli is relating to the military march in Jerusalem on the Independence Day of 1968 - the first broadcast of Israeli TV, in which IDF tanks were rolling through the united city of Jerusalem after the great victory of 1967.
The artist Shuka Glotman made in 1999 an art installation of a typical home of this period and on the television set is shown "The 1968 Reversed Parade" – his critical attitude towards the Israeli militarism. http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%91%D7%A5:Shuka_Glotman_1968_Reversed_Parade_1999.JPG
26. This interviewee is the son of parents who survived the Holocaust – he is a "second generation".
27. Latrun – a Christian monastery on the way to Jerusalem, near a huge British Tygart – one of its kind in Israel, built in the years of the British mandate 1920 – 1948 which were police-military fortified stations. In the Independence War the British gave the Latrun police station to the Arabs and bloody battles broke out until it was conquered by the Israelis. Now the building serves as Yad La’Shirion – a museum and heritage centre of the armoured forces in which the remembrance rituals take place. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-3uCd9GZHA&feature=related
Yad La’Shirion http://www.yadlashiryon.com/show_item.asp?levelId=63816
28. A biblical idiom- Tselem Enosh – meaning human quality, human character.
29. The brigade commanded 18 units throughout the war because many units were depleted or destroyed, thus new units were provided by the front command.
30. Berty Ochayon, (retired) Nitzav, high rank in Israeli police equal to general, wrote a book entitled "We Are Still There" (2008) about his war experiences in the 14th brigade battalion 79. http://www.hativa14.org.il/?CategoryID=218&ArticleID=475
31. Here is the war diary of Kobi Lapid in the 14th Brigade site. Lapid (Torch in Hebrew) was the gunner (operating the tank cannon) in Rami Matan's tank. The pages can be turned to see the original drawings http://www.hativa14.org.il/?CategoryID=631&ArticleID=780
If you enter the next link and scroll the page down to the bottom you can see the original drawings. The dramatic operation of the rescue in which Lapid took part is written in his diary, drawn by him and then painted recently with oil paint. The later oil paintings which are being produced even on today, are exhibited in the Yad La’Shirion Hall. http://www.hativa14.org.il/?CategoryID=639&ArticleID=714
32. Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5 - a collection of oral laws which forms the basis of the Talmud – a Jewish ancient religious codex.
33. Thus, freeing Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was in inhuman captivity by the Hamas terror organisation for five years (until October 2011), garnered enormous support in Israeli public opinion (about 80%) although most of the public knew that it would not be long before the 1,027 terrorists released as part of the exchange, would revert to attacking Israeli civilians as before.
Gilad Shalit in captivity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUR5HIHkYUs
And coming home at last http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL8SwgnKVY8&feature=related
34. On 8th October 1973 the 33 combatants of Maoz Purkan (a bunker on the Suez Canal defense line) were under siege by enemy soldiers and The 14th Brigade Commander Reshef decided to rescue them although he hadn't enough forces to lead the rescue operation. Thus according to the rescue plan, the Purkan combatants escaped quietly from the bunker and were walking towards the 2 IDF tanks and 4 APC’s which were approaching them at night. In the heavy battle, all the APC's were destroyed by the Egyptians, 5 soldiers were killed and 21 were wounded. Then, from his tank which was left alone, Commander Reshef saw another IDF tank which (as he wrote in the site) "seemed like a monster", and on the tank's deck were the 33 Purkan combatants safe and rescued. At the conference, sited in section 1, Reshef took a relatively long time from his 60-minute lecture to depict the Purkan rescue operation. On 2 July 2012 the Brigade site's newsletter announced that new data of Maoz Purkan, dated 6. 10. 1973 which was audio-taped during the war by a soldier, was streamed for the first time ever, accompanied by a transcription, thus shedding light on previously unknown details about the first day of the war. http://www.hativa14.org.il/?CategoryID=1208&ArticleID=1339&Page=1. One can hear the army net-streamed from the battle field if the "play" button is pushed. The rescue of the Maoz Purkan was mentioned also in the Amos Ettinger Makama. See note 21.
37. Visitors list - please scroll the screen for the table at the bottom of the page http://www.hativa14.org.il/?CategoryID=336&ArticleID=340
38. Please scroll the screen for the English text at the bottom of the page. http://www.yadlashiryon.com/show_item.asp?levelId=64950&itemId=2030
39. This is an army slang idiom meaning men who undertook a difficult task as part of a collective mission in order to make the assignment possible. The more general reference is the individuals or group who sacrifice themselves for others. The idiom is drawn from army exercises: when breaking into an enemy compound, a soldier lies on the wire fence and his comrades come running onto his back to storm the fortified target. Thus the name of the documentary portrayed and echoed the bravery of the brigade that fought bloody battles in the Sinai area, especially at the "Chinese Farm" and the roads leading to the crossing of the Suez, sacrificing themselves to guarantee the crossing success.
40. Reshef is a new name that was chosen instead of the Jewish family name from the Diaspora. The first PM Ben-Gurion urged the Israeli serving elite to change their Diaspora names to Hebrew names. Reshef in Hebrew means flash, flare, spark; thus it recalls the flash of the shell shot from the tank's cannon.
41. In Israeli cultural code everyone is called by his first name, even when she or he is of high status. Thus I referred to General (Res.) Amnon Reshef in the interview by his first name, although in print, especially for non-Israelis, it seems very odd and impolite.
42. During the years until 1973 the IDF intelligence constructed what came to be known as "The Conception" – the assumption that for the time being, it was fairly unlikely that the Egyptians would start a war with Israel to gain back their territory – the Sinai Desert. Intelligence even ignored ominous signs of the coming war, and also disregarded information delivered by very trusted sources on the very day war broke out. The political leadership and the high military command were not as alert as they should have been, and accepted this "Conception". Thus none of the Israeli forces and the crucial reservists' forces were conscripted in time. The fronts were defended only by a minimum of IDF forces because of the Yom Kippur fast day. It was only on the morning of 6th October that an order was delivered to prepare for war. It should be emphasised here that the Israeli army is based on the conscription of reservists during emergencies. Reservists serve between 36-108 days annually till the age of 40–50, depending on military professions and units. At the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war, because of "The Conception", the army had less than a third of its soldiers. It took the reservists about 12-48 hours to reach the fronts from the conscription call on the morning of 6th October: the northern against the Syrians on the Golan Heights and the southern in the Sinai Desert. Until the reservists came, the regular soldiers had to try and hold back the attacking Egyptian and Syrian forces. These initial defense battles were devastating because of the unbelievable ratio between the strengths of the forces during these disastrous days. Elaborated from the Brigade site and the Agranat Commission Protocols in the IDF Archive. http://www.archives.mod.gov.il/pages/Exhibitions/agranat/agranat_commission.asp
The photograph caption: "9.10.73 morning – Tassa - a helicopter comes to evacuate the wounded".
IDF tank brigades usually include about 100 – 110 tanks: 3 tanks in a platoon, 3 platoons in a company (with anti-mine tanks and service tanks) equalling about 11-12 tanks, 3 companies in a battalion equalling about 33-36 tanks, and 3 battalions in a brigade. Additionally there is a patrolling tank company, a company of infantry in APC’s, and a mortar company. The 14th Brigade entered the war with only 2 battalions in which were no more than 56 tanks: it had 5 companies and a patrolling company, and a company of infantry on halftracks. After 24 hours 90 soldiers in the brigade had fallen and only 14 tanks were still in operation. In the battles that came later, more units were included in the brigade, so it numbered 18 units during the course of the war.
44. An excerpt about the Agranat commission in the Knesset site. http://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/agranat_eng.htm
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