October war: A Tribute to the people

Dina Ezzat , Thursday 6 Oct 2022

With a thorough read through the press of the days leading to 6 October 1973, two historians drew a picture of a nation in pursuit of reversing defeat and regaining land occupied by Israel.

October war

Al-dawar Al-shaabi fi harb October 1973 (The role of the people in the October 1973 War) – Dar Al-Kottob walwathaei’k alqawmiyah , 2021– Assma’ Miklad and Elham Zohni, 420 pp

"One of the most beautiful things clearly reflected during the October War was this unmistakable sense of unity that brought all of Egypt together in a united combat front -- with the armed forces at the fore and the entire nation, the police, the government, and civil society all standing in solid support of the army – each playing a role to serve the one end of regaining land and attaining victory.”

This is certainly the idea that comes across as the reader moves through the volume, El-Dawr El-Shaabi fi Harb October 1973 (The Role of the People in the October 1973 War) that was put out by Dar El-Kottob wal Wathaeik El-Qawmiyah in 2021. The labour of two historians, Asmaa Miklad and Elham Zohni, this book of 400-plus pages adopts a simple technique of a diligent go-through of the dailies, weekly magazines, and the magazines put out by the ministry of defence, to bring the reader, close to half a century later, what could almost be "a live picture" of a nation that came together in a consolidated work that aimed to end the Israeli occupation of Sinai. 

For the readers who have recollections of the days of the October War this book certainly triggers a host of memories of joy and fear as the news kept coming day in and day out from the battlefield. For the younger generations the book offers a glance at the very recent history of a country that was once able to show remarkable unity and impressive determination.
With its six chapters, the book goes through the many manifestations of true national unity and the uncontested support for the army, not just from the government and its bodies, but also from the people who were so selfless and so forthcoming with their wish to donate money and blood, to volunteer, to take extraordinary measures, to put up with difficulties and to reach out to the soldiers on the front, the wounded soldiers brought back for medical treatment, and the families of the soldiers and those who lost their lives at the front.

The book has some very detailed and moving accounts of young girls and boys donating their very little savings, of housewives knitting jumpers to send to the hospitals where soldiers were being treated, of retired army officers offering to volunteer, of young women queuing up to be trained for nursing jobs, of students of the faculties of medicine volunteering at hospitals to help with treating the wounded soldiers, of students of the faculties of engineering offering to do maintenance jobs at hospitals, and of endless queues of men and women, young, old, and too old, to donate their blood.

The accounts include positive vibes of a government so immersed in taking care of every single little detail to make sure that when the war starts and as it unfolds the country is in a safe place to put up with emergencies.

The book also shows very alert and sensible religious institutions that provide support for soldiers at the battlefield and to the nation. It also draws a picture of a press dedicated to sharing every story from the field to keep the nation informed and connected to its army at the front.

While the book is designed to share the stories published in the press at the time on how the nation stood behind the army during the lead-up to and the day of the October War, it also shares a few accounts from the field, as published in the press, including of medical doctor Rashad Marzouk Tadros who declined to run at a moment of an aggressive Israeli raid and continued to treat the wounded soldier until he died in the field, and of many others who gave their life during the war.

The book comprises a comprehensive list of documentaries, as well as the cinema production, the songs, and the novels that were put out either during the days of the war, with so many songs still kept in the collective Egyptian consciousness and the novels that were written about the war.

At first glance, the book might not seem as a compelling read. However, with every page there is a detail that adds to the final, overall picture of a nation so dedicated to the cause of a war to reverse the defeat.

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