Israel National Library publishes rare photographs of Sukkot during 1973 war
(September 23, 2021 / JNS) Almost 50 years after the Yom Kippur War, the National Library of Israel published a number of rare photos showing how the feast of Sukkot, or “Feast of Tabernacles,” was celebrated during the conflict, even as war raged in Sinai and the Golan Heights.
Also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Yom Kippur War took on this name because it erupted on the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Because of her name, many forget that Sukkot, which begins just days after Yom Kippur, also fell during the heat of the fight.
Biblical injunction orders Jews to sit in temporary dwelling called sukkah during the party. Due to the circumstances of the war, the Chief Military Rabbi had declared the soldiers exempt from performing this command, but many soldiers built sukkah on jeeps and other military vehicles anyway, some even in enemy territory.
The photos include a number taken by photographer Nathan Fendrich, a then 39-year-old American tourist who had come to Israel to document historical and archaeological sites. Stuck in Israel at the start of the war, he decides to travel between the different fronts, armed with his camera.
Fendrich recently donated his collection, including hundreds of previously unseen photographs, to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.
At the end of Sukkot, the turning point in the war came as the Israel Defense Forces shifted from defense to offensive. A contemporary newspaper article from deep within Syrian territory described the discovery of a sukkah on the way to the site of the critical battle at the Hushniya junction, with a soldier recounting: “The guys from the armored division set up the sukkah. Yes, they succeeded in fulfilling the mitzvah of sitting there before being called upon to destroy the last enemy pocket…. “
The photos are part of the National Collection of Photographs of the Pritzker Family at the National Library of Israel, the largest collection of its kind in the world, providing a visual record of Ottoman and Mandate Palestine, as well as of society and of Israeli culture from the mid-19th century to the present day. The collection includes more than 2 million items, including photo albums, individual photos, postcards, personal collections and archives of private photographers and photographic agencies.