(Editor’s Note: Retro News is a column that will appear every week as part of the celebration of the Chronicle’s 50th anniversary. Each week, Retro News will look at a past issue of the Chronicle, encapsulate the news reported that week and comment on how those items pertain to today’s Jewish Pittsburgh.)
In the dark early days of the Yom Kippur War, when Israel’s very existence hung in the balance, the Chronicle chose an unusual approach to its front-page coverage of the fighting.
Instead of publishing stories from the front lines on page 1, the editors instead ran a full-length rough topographical map outlining the some of the highlights of the war to date.
The map showed where Israeli jets struck Syria, where Egyptian MIGs hit Ismailia, the location of armor and infantry attacks against Israeli positions in Sinai, the point where Israeli and Syrian fighters clashed over the Golan and the site of Egyptian commando raid.
The map didn’t come close to capturing the seriousness of the surprise war or how grim things were for Israeli troops in those first days of the fighting, but it was an eye-grabbing graphic nevertheless, which directed readers to the coverage of the war on the inside pages.
That coverage included a full-page ad on page 2 from the United Jewish Federation trumpeting:
for her life.
YOU CAN HELP
Not with guns
Not with lives
You can help with money.
Thus began the federation’s second wartime emergency campaign in six years.
On page 3, the Chronicle published two side-by-side stories. One, labled “Action,” described the campaign, which was headed up by Federation President Donald Robinson. In a statement to the Chronicle’s readers, Robinson asked contributors to pay up all current and past contributions “at once,” to keep tabs on the war news by visiting a daily open house at the UJF office at McKee Place and to make advance payments to the 1974 Community Campaign.
“The tragedies of the past few days … emphasize what we have known all along,” Robinson said in his statement. “The Jewish people must always be prepared to help each other. We need Israel as much as Israel needs us. Israel cannot stand alone. Israel must not stand alone.”
The second story on that page, written by Executive Editor Albert W. Bloom and labled, “Why?” was an analysis of what led up to the conflict. In it, Bloom called the timing of the attack — on the holiest day on the Jewish calendar — “the biggest blunder of all!”
Bloom wrote, “They (Egypt and Syria) apparently thought their attack would catch Israel flatfooted with thousands of Israelis in their synagogues and temples during the long day of fasting and prayer, with war far from their minds. …”
He also noted that Israeli Arabs were fasting, too, since the war started during the month of Ramadan.
But Arab hopes for an easy victory faded.
According to Bloom, Egypt and Syria were claiming huge victories Israel in the early days of the war, but were “vague” on details. Meanwhile, “Israel’s reports were free of bombast, but indicated strong counterpressure and steady forward movement on both fronts. …”
As Israeli reservists at prayer were called up, “there [were] stories told of the young reservists leaping over their seats tallises … still draped over their shoulders and their kipot perched on their heads as they clambered aboard the mobilized trucks, buses, sheruts, and taxis and cars,” Bloom wrote.
Pages 4 and 5 were devoted to news photos from the front lines with the headline, “Wing and a prayer in Yom Kippur War!” Pages 6 and 7, headlined “Israel and Arab States — Area of Populations,” was a two-page map of the Middle East and North Africa with outlining the population of the Arab world compared to Israel. Below the map a chart detailed the numeric superiority of Egypt’s and Syria’s army, navy and air force compared over Israel’s.
— Compiled by Lee Chottiner
(For a more comprehensive look at the Oct. 9, 1973, Chronicle, visit the jewishchronicle.net and click on “archives” at the top of the page. Back issues of the Chronicle are archived by the Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project.)