Today, 6 October, marks a date highly cherished by Egyptians. On that day in 1973 the Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal and landed onto the Sinai Peninsula which had been occupied by Israel for six years, in the wake of the Six-Day War in June 1967. The Israelis had constructed what they alleged were invincible fortifications in Sinai, major among which was the famed Bar Lev Line that extended 150 kilometres along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. It was an elaborate defence system that constituted a sand-packed embankment supported by a concrete wall dotted with military points, and was almost impossible to bring down. On top, the Israelis towered above the eastern Canal bank and taunted the seemingly impotent Egyptians stationed down on the western bank. It appeared they could do nothing but look despairingly at the Suez Canal made impassable by the invincible fortification that rose high behind it.
The day 6 October 1973 coincided with the Jewish Yom Kippur, and the Egyptian military leadership decided it was the perfect timing to launch what was a carefully thought, meticulously planned attack against the Israelis. At 2:00pm that day, Egyptian military planes attacked Israeli sites in Sinai, as military dinghies crossed the canal, erected bridgeheads and extended bridges for the armed forces to cross. They used water cannons to make way into the Bar Lev line, overran it in two hours, and raised the Egyptian flag on top. Tales of heroic courage of that crossing and the 18-day war that followed are endless. What had appeared an impossible task was achieved; Egypt’s self-esteem was finally regained after six years of the collective humiliation of facing an enemy who had the country under its thumb.
The Suez Canal crossing opened the way for Egypt to regain Sinai, a task only accomplished in full in 1989 even though a peace treaty with Israel had been signed in 1979.
We lovingly remember those who willingly laid their lives to bring dignity and peace to Egypt, and cherish the war veterans who risked all for that purpose. Watani wishes all Egyptians a happy commemoration of a great day that should act as an inspiration for the further accomplishment of near-impossible deeds.
6 October 2015