40 Year Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War > "Keep a Secret- Save a Life!"

"Keep a Secret- Save a Life!"

"Keep a Secret- Save a Life!"
The printed material from the Yom Kippur War reflects a preoccupation with censorship and the danger that the enemy was listening, gathering intelligence and was present among us. It's possible that this stemmed from the surprise  the severe intelligence failure that led to the surprise attack by the Syrian and Egyptian armies.  The fact that two Arab armies managed to invade Israeli-held territories in the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, certainly contributed to the atmosphere. The feeling that the enemy crossed the lines, and that its agents could be anywhere, was one of the reasons that on every military piece of mail, on every official piece of paper, on every published order, there appeared a warnings to soldiers to keep quiet. 

A Strong Warning on a Postcard for Soldiers

"Keep a Secret- Save a Life!"A postcard of instructions for soldiers clearly instructs: "Secrecy: A Weapon against the Enemy". The postcard warns: "… it is important to thwart the enemy's intelligence efforts; the enemy is trying to gather information about the IDF in any possible way in order to hamper our campaigns. Therefore, dealing with reporters wisely and with intelligence is of the upmost importance, specifically with foreign reporters. Foreign reporters are a potential threat. They wander around in the field and some of them may work for the enemy, or could leak a source to the enemy. Please, be careful about what you say. Keep a secret!"  Post office post cards also warn: "Chatter MIGHT cause our downfall". And in an even a more dire version: "Keep a secret  save a life!"
 

​The News Item that was Censored in "Maariv"

However, the need to be careful about what material was made public was not limited to military texts. The Shalom Rosenfeld Archive at the National Library contains an excellent example of censorship that occurred on the eve of the war, the 5th of October 1973, in a news item published by the "Maariv" military correspondent at that time, Yacov Erez. The day before the war, on Yom Kippur eve, the military journalist wrote a news item:
 
"The fortification activities of the Egyptians on the Western bank of the Suez Canal have increased in the last few days, and includes, as of now, machines and large military units involved in fortification.  Indeed it is possible to make out the increased movement of vehicles on the Egyptian side of the canal.  
 
The fortification activities include crossing points and sand batteries from which the Egyptians can see beyond the Israeli batteries. There are tanks and anti-tank cannons stationed on the batteries and in various places along the canal one can make out the tanks positioned on the perimeter of the batteries. Expert sources in Sinai said yesterday that in the past, work on Egyptian fortifications had increased while declarations of war were being heard in Cairo.  As mentioned, the Egyptian news agency announced this week that a state of high alert has been declared in the canal.
 
In various sectors of the IDF fortifications on the canal increased movement of Egyptian vehicles can be seen and in the past few days Egyptian airplanes, hovering only a few miles west of the Suez canal, have been sighted.  
 
The IDF forces are keeping a close eye on what is happening on the Egyptian side of the canal and all measures are being taken to prevent the Egyptians from engaging in a surprise attack."
 
The text was largely erased by hand, but a small part of it remained:
 
"As mentioned, the Egyptian news agency announced this week that a state of high alert has been declared
in the canal. The IDF forces are keeping a close eye on what is happening on the Egyptian side of the canal and all measures are being taken to prevent the Egyptians from engaging in a surprise attack."
 
This is more or less the version that was published on the front page of "Maariv" on Friday, October, 5, 1973, in a very small news item, under the unimpressive headline: "The IDF is keeping an eye on what is happening on the Egyptian side of the Canal".
 
But it was too late for censorship. And maybe specifically because of this, the awareness regarding the importance of keeping secrets and the way information is dealt with had increase during the war  a war that surprised hardened soldiers as well as some of the IDF command, despite the clear signs that arose from information of the sort that "Maariv"s military correspondent had.
  • 1. From the Southern Command newspaper: the breach
  • 2. The official newspaper surveys the two fronts
  • 3. Military manifesto from Central Command: the declaration of a ceasefire
  • 4. A postcard to soldiers: donated by Shakam and a cosmetics company
  • 5. A postcard to a soldier: write home and keep secrets
  • 6. The front page of "Ma'ariv" the Friday before the war, censored.
  • 7. A postcard warning soldiers: safety in the field
  • 8. "Ma'ariv": the expanded news item by Yacov Erez on the eve of the war and the deletions.