This year marks the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when Egyptian and Syrian forces invaded Israel in a surprise attack. As we commemorate the bravery of the Israeli Army in one of its toughest wars, we’re also celebrating the eventual peace treaty with Egypt that came as a direct result of the conflict.
The Yom Kippur War -- also called the 1973 Arab-Israeli War or the October War -- began on October 6, 1973, when Egyptian and Syrian forces launched surprise attacks on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Egypt invaded the Israeli-controlled Sinai Peninsula, while the Syrian army crossed into the Golan Heights -- both of which were captured in 1967 by Israel. Both armies wanted to gain back their lost territories. This was the fourth war fought between Israel and Arab armies since the Jewish state declared its Independence in 1948.
Due to the surprise nature of the attack, the war lasted for weeks until Israel was able to re-capture the Golan Heights. While Israel was victorious in the Yom Kippur War, there were many soldier casualties, and national discourse criticized then-prime minister Golda Meir’s handling of the confrontation. She would step down the next year.
While war is always tragic and comes with high costs, the Yom Kippur War had a silver lining: Egypt and Israel were ready to make peace. The neighboring states worked together to create disengagement agreements that would allow Egypt to resume control over parts of Sinai and ensure a smooth transition. These agreements, as well as many discussions in between, led Israel to sign its first peace treaty with an Arab state.
Facilitated by then-US president Jimmy Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords in September 1978, and later a formal peace treaty in March 1979, which has led to a sustainable and lasting relationship between the two countries that continues to flourish today. Begin and Sadat were awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for their diplomatic achievements.
By 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula entirely. Since then, there have been various economic, agricultural, political, and security cooperations between the two Middle Eastern countries. Sinai remains part of Egypt, but has become a popular vacation destination for Israeli tourists looking to spend time swimming, relaxing, and snorkeling in the Red Sea.
50 years ago, the Yom Kippur War was an unimaginable crisis and an inevitable and insolvable problem in the Middle East. Today, we can look back and understand that it is possible to make peace after years of hostility and war when there is true effort, mutual recognition of the other, and a will to make lasting and positive change.
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