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I'm trying to remember a historical incident I read about but have a foggy recollection of.

As far as I recall, during a religious holiday, a neighboring country launched an air strike against country X (was one of the countries Israel perhaps?) and inflicted severe damage because the victims were not able to launch planes due to religious prohibitions in effect during that day, similar to the activities prohibited during Sabbath (e.g. do not light fire).

I also have some vague recollection that the event occurred in October.

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This is a garbled account of the attack that began the Yom Kippur War, or the October War, between Israel and an alliance of Syria and Egypt. The latter launched an attack on Israel (to recover Egyptian and Syrian territory previously occupied by Israel) on Yom Kippur, the most solemn of Jewish holidays, when the whole country grinds to a halt.

Jewish law certainly does not require refraining from self-defense on the Sabbath in a life-or-death situation, and in any case, in 1973 when the war occurred, virtually no members of the Israeli Defense Force were strict adherents to Jewish law. It's debatable whether the timing of the attack hurt or helped the Israeli mobilization in response. Some soldiers' minds may have been on other things when the attack began. On the other hand, Israel's roads were clear of traffic, and the reservists' rush to their mobilization depots was smoother than it would otherwise have been.

  • Thank you, and please excuse the lack of exactness that caused my wetware to garble this incident. – Dan Dascalescu Sep 27 '14 at 9:33
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    Don't forget that because Yom Kippur is the highest holiday of the year, all border positions were severely undermanned - a fact the attackers knew in advance and used to the utmost. – Felix Goldberg Sep 27 '14 at 15:08
  • @FelixGoldberg: good point. You might want to add that to the Wikipedia Yom Kippur War article. – Dan Dascalescu Oct 2 '14 at 6:52

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