10.6.73 - The Yom Kippur War: Photographs by Tom Heyman
Exhibition to Mark Israel's 60th Anniversary at HUC-JIR/NY
March 11 – July 11, 2008
Thursday, May 29 at 5:30-8:00 PM
The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum will present “10.6.73 – The Yom Kippur War: Photographs by Tom Heyman” from March 11 through July 11, 2008, in celebration of Israel’s 60th birthday. This exhibition features 200 photographs depicting the heroism and sacrifice of Hativa Sheva, the Seventh Brigade of the Israeli Defense Forces, on the Syrian front from the October 6th surprise attack, as it battled to defeat the Syrian invasion of the Golan Heights, and until the last Syrian shell fell on May 31, 1974. Caught by surprise on Judaism’s holiest holiday, ill equipped, and grossly outnumbered, the Israeli forces’ tenacity and courage won a military victory at a terrible cost.
On October 6th, 1973, Syria launched three oversized infantry divisions and about 930 tanks and 900 artillery pieces in forward positions facing the Golan Heights. Two additional armored divisions and 460 tanks held the rear, protected by 30 batteries of anti-aircraft missiles. Israel held the Golan Heights with 177 tanks and one infantry division, 44 artillery pieces, and a SAM battery. Thus began what was to be the largest tank battle since World War II.
Photographer Tom Heyman recalls the Syrian and Egyptian surprise attack that launched the war. “It was two o’clock on Yom Kippur in Safed, when the silence of this holy day was broken by the sound of aircraft above. I ran to the roof with my longest lens camera and photographed the planes in dog fights and the anti-aircraft rockets being fired from the ground. Across the wadi, where there was a small synagogue, men were jumping into pickup trucks still wearing their tallit shawls. Within the hour, a stream of trucks passed our windows filled with the dead and wounded, piled like logs. I had been in the U.S. army, but this was nothing I had ever seen before.”
He and his wife, Uziela, turned their home into a relief center for Hativa Sheva — the first armored brigade established during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, and distinguished for its valor and having produced many Commanders of the Israeli army. Heyman was invited to join the tank brigade as its photographer at the Syrian front. He was given an Israeli army uniform and documented the battle of the “Valley of Tears,” the battle for the Golan and for Israel. His camera captured the moment to moment reality of the war, witnessing the transformation of men from youths to heroes, from the battlefield to the hospital. He remained with the brigade deep into Syria, amid the very ‘hot’ front’s ongoing artillery fire, throughout the winter of 1973-1974 until the end of May.
“Every day I would photograph the soldiers in battle, take their phone numbers, and later call their families with messages. They were all heroes holding off the Syrians at their point position — Yanush Ben Gal, the Brigade’s Commander, Lt. Col. Kahalani, the hero of the Six Day War, Yos El Dar, Lt. Col. of the scouts who had been wiped out, and who escaped from Ziv Hospital in Safed to rejoin his brigade, Alex, the doctor, who saved a life with a field tracheotomy under fire, Zvika Greengold, who fought off a Syrian tank brigade with a single tank, fighting alone until help arrived, and all those who defended Israel with their bodies and their lives. I photographed them and their troops, and tried to record the faces of young men growing old. After the war, I spent day and night for months working in my darkroom on the portraits of war. These young men had seen so much horror that some part of them would never be the same. These photographs were published as the covers of the army magazine, and in the memorial book for the brigade’s fallen soldiers. I felt that my photographs were a part of the history of Israel and should be preserved, and gave all of my photographs, contact sheets, and negatives (10,000 images) to the archives of the Israeli Army.” Heyman remained with Hativa Sheva, deep in Syria, through the winter of 1973-1974 – a period of unquiet and artillery fire, until the cessation of hostilities on May 31, 1974.
The Israeli army has returned the photographs, in addition to battle maps and a brigade flag, to Heyman for this exhibition. Heyman recalls that he “found the war-ravaged flag on the ground and did not want it to fall into the hands of the enemy.”
Tom Heyman, a New York-born photo-journalist, was educated a Columbia College. A member of the American Association of Magazine Photographers, Heyman covered the United Nations, the International Labor Council, and other organizations during his professional career in the United States, immigrated to Israel in 1970, and became an Israeli citizen in 1995.