1973 had hardly arrived when Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th President, died on January 22 at the age of 64. Johnson, who died two days after Richard Nixon’s second inauguration was the second former President to die within the span of two months. Former President Harry S. Truman, whose death made Johnson the only living former President, died less than a month before Johnson did on December 26, 1972.
Also on January 27, 1973, the U.S., North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed the Paris Peace Accords. This led to an immediate cease-fire and the release of all American POWs within 60 days. Mercifully, the long and protracted conflict was drawing to a close.
The gala 30th Anniversary Dinner of United Israel World Union was held at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan on May 12th. General Lucius D. Clay, whose very first act after being appointed Governor of West Berlin after World War II was to prevail upon the Bavarian regime to rebuild the Munich Synagogue destroyed by the Nazis, was one of the outstanding personalities heading the 30th Anniversary Committee. The event honored the life of noted humanitarian Harry Leventhal.
United Israel World Union founded in 1943 and commemorating its 30th anniversary, preceded the establishment of the United Nations by two years and the State of Israel by five. David Horowitz saw the three great events in the order of their sequential emergence as significant and providential. Often stressing the universal philosophy of life, as blueprinted in the Bible, he named the organization “United Israel World Union” five years before the Jewish State was proclaimed “Israel.”
In 1947, United Israel had played a vital role at the UN in urging the world organization, through a memorandum, to recognize the rights of Israel in the Holy Land. This memorandum, distributed among UN delegations, was officially acknowledged and recorded in the United Nations archives.
The original World Trade Center, featuring the landmark twin towers, officially opened on April 4, 1973. At the time of their completion the twin towers were the tallest buildings in the world.
The 30th annual meeting of United Israel World Union was held on June 27th at the home of David and Nan Horowitz. David gave a detailed report on the overwhelming success of the 30th Anniversary Dinner held on May 12th in honor of Harry Leventhal.
At the meeting, Horowitz read a lengthy letter he had just received from entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. Mr. Davis began his inspiring letter by stating: “Many thanks for your kind invitation to be with you on the 30th anniversary of the United Israel World Union. I am familiar with your great work emphasizing the universality of the Hebraic Heritage, and I wish from the bottom of my heart that I could be with you in person. Unfortunately, I will be out of the country on that May weekend, so I can only do the next best thing by extending to you my heartiest felicitations on this auspicious occasion and my best wishes for a successful continuation of your program in the decades that lie ahead.”
Davis continued with a full-page explanation of his own motivation for conversion to the Jewish faith, concluding his moving message with: “I wanted to be a part of this people.”
The full content of Sammy Davis, Jr’s letter to David Horowitz appeared in the summer, 1973 issue of the United Israel Bulletin.
During a late summer luncheon sponsored by the American Zionist Federation, Horowitz met with world famous Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal. The two discussed the case of Bishop Valerian D. Trifa and other World War II criminals still at large in the U.S. On a brief visit to America on behalf of his Vienna Institute, Mr. Wiesenthal’s dedicated efforts had been instrumental in the arrest of over 1,100 war criminals.
Mr. Wiesenthal made it a special point to note that eleven million civilians were murdered by the Nazis, among who were six million Jews. “It is incumbent upon Jewish leaders,” he emphasized, “to mention the fact that almost an equal number of non-Jews were murdered and that it is therefore not only a Jewish issue but a Christian one as well.”
At the time Wiesenthal was working on 330 additional cases.
In the Middle East Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was again threatening war with Israel unless the United States forced Israel to accept his interpretation of UN Resolution 242 and calling for total Israeli withdrawal from territories taken in 1967. Still, most observers remained skeptical of his rhetoric.
On October 6, 1973 on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar (and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan), it happened. Egypt and Syria opened a coordinated surprise attack against Israel.
The equivalent of the total forces of NATO in Europe were mobilized on Israel’s borders.
On the Golan Heights approximately 180 Israeli tanks faced an onslaught of 1,400 Syrian tanks. Along the Suez Canal, 600,000 Egyptian soldiers backed by 2,000 tanks and 550 aircraft attacked fewer than 500 Israeli defenders with only three tanks. Nine Arab states, including four non-Middle Eastern nations actively aided the Egyptian-Syria war effort.
The Soviets gave wholehearted political support to the Arab invasion while pouring weapons into the region.
This led to the October 12th emergency airlift order of supplies and arms by U.S. President Richard Nixon. Between October 14th and November 14th, 1973, the United States provided 22,000 tons of equipment transported to Israel by air and sea. The airlift alone involved 566 flights. To pay for this infusion of weapons, Nixon asked Congress for and received 2.2 billion in emergency aid for Israel.
Thrown on the defensive during the first two days of fighting, Israel mobilized its reserves and began to counterattack. What followed, history tells us, was an epic period of intense engagement.
In the greatest tank battle since the Germans and Russians fought at Kursk in World War II, roughly 1,000 Israeli and Egyptian tanks massed in the western Sinai from October 12th until the14th. On the 14th, Israeli forces destroyed 250 Egyptian tanks in the first two hours of fighting. By late afternoon the Israeli forces had routed the enemy accomplishing a feat equal to Montgomery’s victory over Rommel in World War II.
By October 18th, Israeli forces marched with little opposition toward Cairo. About the same time Israeli troops were on the outskirts of Damascus. This reversal of fortune brought us to the brink of nuclear war.
The Soviets began to panic and on October 24th threatened to intervene in the fighting. Responding to the Soviet threat, President Nixon put the U. S. military on alert, increasing its readiness for deployment of conventional and nuclear forces. The danger of a U.S.-Soviet conflict was real. In fact, this was the closest the superpowers had come to a nuclear confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
What followed was an intense period of diplomatic efforts to gain a cease-fire with which Israel reluctantly complied largely because of U.S. pressure, and because the next military moves would have been to attack the two Arab capitals, actions few believed to be politically wise.
At the end of the fighting 2,688 Israeli soldiers had been killed. Combat deaths for Egypt and Syria totaled approximately 7,700 and 3,500, respectively.
Ironically, the United States had helped save Israel by its resupply effort and then rescued Egypt by forcing Israel to accept the ceasefire. Egyptian-Israeli disengagement talks began on October 28th. It was the first time in 25 years that Egyptian and Israeli officials formally communicated with each other.
In January 1974, Israel and Egypt negotiated a disengagement agreement thanks to U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy. Over the next two years, Kissinger brokered a series of bilateral agreements between Egypt and Israel, setting the stage for the Camp David peace process of the late 1970s.
Professor Abraham Kotsuji, the noted Japanese scholar who discovered his faith through the Torah and who in 1959 was officially inducted into traditional Judaism in Jerusalem, died on October 31st in Japan following an illness while in New York. He was 74 years old.
A Bible scholar and researcher, Professor Kotsuji was the author of several books including a textbook on Hebrew grammar and a biographical work titled: “From Tokyo to Jerusalem.”
Professor Kotsuji, who was credited with having saved many Jewish refugees in World War II was first welcomed to America some 12 years earlier by United Israel World Union at a reception given in the home of Dr. Paul Riebenfeld. Throughout his many visits to America, Professor Kotsuji was featured in numerous articles published in United Israel Bulletins.
According to his wishes, Dr. Kotsuji was flown to Israel and interned in the Holy City of Jerusalem on November 9, 1973.
Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.
This post is the twenty-seventh in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.