"Our situation has never been better" declared the Prime Minister of Israel at the time, Golda Meir. Only a few days later the Yom Kippur War broke out and within five days there were already over 1,000 dead.
The upper echelon did not read the map correctly, but there was someone who understood that a war was about to break out, David Cohen, was an officer in the Yom Kippur War, he foresaw the deterioration of the situation and even sent a report to the commander of the Southern Command, but the report apparently never reached its destination.
During the war, he was assigned as an engineer to build a bridge over the Suez Canal that would lead the force to fight back in Egypt, which turned out to be an action that caused a reversal in the power balance. During the work of moving the barges, David was injured by a direct shell and lost both of his legs.
"I told my wife on Yom Kippur there will be a war"
He opens his wonderful story by describing the beginning of the war "Until the IDF crossed the Suez Canal there was a period of anxiety, in Israel, they didn't really know what was happening at the borders, they didn't understand the true catastrophe that was at the beginning of the war, we were dejected, with a huge question mark, what do we do, our eyes depended on the top political and military ranks, the thought was that all was lost, the Egyptians would wash away Sinai, the invincible IDF of the Six Day War stood helpless." Cohen criticizes the complacency at the top level "reserve companies were not recruited, the intelligence warnings were not put into action, they did not send troops to Sinai and they did not thicken the Bar Lev line in terms of manpower."
On the other hand, David describes that the junior officials in the field already knew very well what was going to happen, when he returned home on Yom Kippur he told his wife that he would pray at home because the war was about to break out and the army would come to pick him up, his wife suggested that he go to a synagogue anyway, and as soon as they will come from the army she leads them to him. And indeed it was. David went to pray morning prayer and at about 9:30 there was a knock at his house and he was called to report back to the Suez Canal area.
The revolution in warfare was when the Suez Canal was successful
David was then a permanent officer, he served in the Corps of Engineers and spent most of his service in the Sinai as the commander of a company of barges - the means by which the IDF transported heavy forces, tanks, and trucks over water. He served as an operations officer of the battalion and during the war was appointed deputy commander of the battalion.
David points out the turning point "The great turning point in the war was the moment we moved with one boom to the Egyptian side and the battalion launched a counterattack, the operation to open the canal resulted in a crushing victory from total loss." Today, historians admit that the launching of the bridge by the engineering battalion was of critical importance in the success of a successful operation and the expansion of the bridgehead in the west of the Suez Canal. With its launch, the IDF quickly moved tanks and other equipment into Egypt.
"We built in 10 minutes a bridge that takes two years to build"
David describes how for four and a half years they prepared the means to allow the IDF to build a bridge in the Suez Canal. Many times more than the IDF. And yet the IDF, with the meager means at its disposal, turned the tide." David explains that the barges were built from equipment imported from abroad, which was mostly civilian equipment. "With the power of thought and the imagination of the engineers, we turned them into military means by "L extracted the canal".
The bridge over the Suez Canal that David Cohen and his soldiers built was beyond imagination, "To build a short 60-meter interchange in Israel takes two years, it took us 10 minutes to build a bridge over the water, while we are being bombarded from all sides."
"Death yard we called it, soldiers fell all the time"
The soldiers worked during the shelling, David describes the riot "We decided that we would continue without stopping, the "death yard" we called it, all the time soldiers were injured, as soon as the Egyptians realized that we were building a bridge they turned 700 artillery pieces towards us, we did not stop, soldiers fell, others were injured, but the task was to complete the bridge."
The length of the Suez Canal is 160 km and the width is between 180 and 200 meters. The bridge that the company was required to build was 180 meters long and the width of the canal, "the size of twice a football field on the water, this is a bridge that tanks have to cross, not pedestrians, every A tank weighs 50 tons, it was necessary in a few minutes to connect the means like Lego, each unit floats in the water and connects to the next, 10 such units across the width of the Suez Canal."
"On the holiday of Simchat Torah, my legs were amputated"
During the holiday of Simchat Torah, David Cohen helped move a replacement barge through the canal instead of another one that was hit by a direct shell and began to sink, during the passage a direct shell arrived. Three officers were on the barge, two were killed on the spot, David received shrapnel and both of his legs were amputated.
He was taken to the nearby battalion assembly point - The field hospital established near the canal in the aftermath of the mission. "was a lifesaver for me. Losing both legs leads to a significant loss of blood, and if they hadn't treated the blood loss immediately, I would have lost my life." David, with everything he's been through, remains optimistic and adds with a smile, "The main thing is that the head works"
"I'm like everyone else, no legs but my head works"
When the war broke out David was 23 years old, married and the father of a two and a half month old baby. He dreamed of pursuing a military career, was a candidate to study at the Technion and serve as chief engineering officer, but the injury interrupted his plans, he was released and turned to civilian life. "Someone from above decided that way, and I don't give up on anything, I'm like everyone else, although I don't have legs, but my head works, everything is possible."
Indeed, David did not give up on himself. He worked as a vice president at the Isracard company, 900 employees worked under him, and was also a member of the company's management for 15 years. After the war, he had three more children, and then grandchildren, and he already managed to raise two of his granddaughters. In recent years, he took on himself to be involved in the community and was a cantor, a reciter, a scribe and taught boys to read the Torah in preparation for the Bar Mitzvah as a complete volunteer. David retired at the age of 62 and devoted his time to a Torah life.
David and his wife Michal moved to the town of Eli three years ago, following his wife who traveled a lot in the area and fell in love with the place. He is happy about the choice and loves Binyamin but points out with pain that there is no awareness of accessibility "young people live here who do not know the need of disabled people in wheelchairs", optimistic as usual he points out that winds of change are blowing in the settlement.
Fifty years later
Fifty years after the war, David looks back and still wonders how the upper echelons did not understand what the junior officers in the field perceived. Shortly before the war, David was sent by the commander of the Southern Command to report to the commander what was happening in the Suez Canal, he prepared a report that "a war is going to break out very, very soon", he passed the report to a chief engineering officer and it is not clear to this day whether he was transferred to the commander of the command. But he already knew. He told his wife that this Kippur would be different, at 9:30 on Yom Kippur he left for the front. At 2:00 p.m. alarms were already going off all over the country.
"My wife is my biggest support, everything thanks to her"
When I ask David if there is anything he would like to add, David humbly says: "I attribute all my rehabilitation to my family and especially to my wife, the biggest support I had after the injury, she was only 22 years old with a small baby.
Yet she supported and understood in her wisdom how not to let me sink, she activated me, with her help I discovered that I could do anything. To her credit, it can be said that her awareness of rehabilitation was greater than mine, far greater than mine."
David Cohen, has been dealing with the injury for 50 years, although he is in a wheelchair but stands firm in his strong faith in the Creator of the world. Today he gives lectures in military forums and to the general public about what happened in the trench during the Yom Kippur War and the war after the war - about his rehabilitation from the injury after the war on the holy and terrible day.