By: Moshe Phillips
As we approach the 46th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, I have chosen to look at a book that illustrates the revolution that took place in the short time between the 1967 Six Day War and 1973 war. That revolution was in the way that Jews from all over the world viewed Zionism and the State of Israel, and their nexus with Jews and Judaism.
Today, when many Jews in the US are disconnected from Israel and Zionism, there may not be a better book to read than Letters to Talia, even though its words were penned decades ago. The Hebrew edition of the book was originally published in 2005 and became hugely popular, but somehow the book never achieved the status it so richly deserves outside of Israel.
Letters to Talia is eerily reminiscent of Self-Portrait of a Hero: From the Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu 1963–1976. Both reveal the tragic loss that Israel has suffered by sacrificing its best and brightest on the fields of battle for generations: 23,741 soldiers were remembered on Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance, earlier this year.
Millions of Jews the world over will again mourn for these soldiers this year at Yizkor on Yom Kippur. Letters to Talia is a collection of correspondence between a kibbutz-born secular Israeli high school girl and an Israeli soldier named Dov Indig, one of Israel’s fallen heroes.
Indig fell in combat on October 7, 1973, 11 Tishrei 5734, fighting the Syrian army on the Golan Heights. He was a dedicated yeshiva student and part of the Religious Zionist movement.
Many of the letters in the book center around Talia’s desire to put the Jewish religion in proper context in her life as a modern, thinking young woman, and Dov’s answers to her questions and his army experiences.
What makes the book so moving is not just the emotion that each writer attaches to their search for truth, but the commitment they demonstrate to the Jewish people, their love of the land of Israel, and their faith in the State of Israel.
The topics tackled encompass an entire range of issues from the Israeli surrender of Sinai to women’s rights, and from emigration to the Diaspora to a critique of Western culture. The reader is left to ponder how these young Israelis could have had more common sense than the politicians who surrendered so much of the lands liberated in 1967 that feature so prominently in the book.
Subjects such as religious coercion and the importance of Israeli settlements are discussed at length. The depiction of visits to Sinai are vivid, and leave the reader with a better sense of what Israel lost when this vast area was surrendered to Egypt at Camp David.
Here are a few random quotes that give a sense of the patriotism of these young Israelis:
Talia: I really envy you that you were on the Golan Heights. I love hiking there more than anywhere else in Israel.
Dov: How fortunate we are that we are privileged to be soldiers in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], which defends the lives of Jews in Israel and throughout the world.
Talia: We thought that our amazing victory in the Six Day War would put an end to wars, and that the Arabs would resign themselves to our existence, but it turns out that we made a mistake.
Dov: I am happy to hear from you that most of the kids hold that it is forbidden to give up Sinai and it is forbidden to be tempted by the promises of the Arabs, who until today have broken all of them.
Read the book for yourself; you will be moved by the experience.
Moshe Phillips is national director of Herut North America’s US division. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education. Its website is https://herutna.org/.