Israelis Were 99 Km From Cairo at End of Yom Kippur War, Not 101, Historian Shows

Historian Benjamin Z. Kedar, whose unit crossed the Suez Canal, has a photograph to prove his myth-breaking case.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The accepted convention is that the Israel Defense Forces halted 101 kilometers from Cairo in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but a historian has shown that his battalion got two kilometers closer to the Egyptian capital – on a different road.

Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar, vice president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, says a photograph he took shortly after the fighting ceased west of the Suez Canal proves that the IDF reached 99 kilometers from Cairo.

The IDF halted 101 kilometers from the city on the Suez-Cairo highway near the end of the war. This is when the United Nations set up a tent camp where the two sides held cease-fire talks and eventually signed a disengagement agreement. But Kedar says his unit reached a road sign saying 99 kilometers to Cairo on a road further north.

Kedar served in Battalion 599, an armored infantry unit in the first armored brigade to cross the canal, under the command of Haim Erez. Kedar, who specializes in the Middle Ages and the Crusades, has also written a book on the battalion’s history.

In the book he describes how the 421st Brigade advanced after crossing the canal. Kedar says that in the war’s final days he repeatedly heard on the radio that the 101 km mark was the last point at which the IDF had halted, so he was surprised to find a signpost marking 99 km to Cairo. He says he considered taking the sign as a souvenir, but settled for a photograph.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the war, Kedar reexamined the photo to figure out if the IDF had indeed reached 99 kilometers from Cairo. Contrary to his usual practice, Kedar didn’t mark on the slide the site at which it was taken. He used calculations based on the angle of the sun and Google satellite images to reveal the exact location.

“At first I thought it was on the road leading from Abu Sultan, the point at which we crossed the canal to Cairo, but when I looked closer I noticed that the shadow of the barrel, the flag and me fall at an illogical angle, as if the sun were to the northwest, which could not have happened in October-November,” he says.

A comparison with the IDF’s code map at the time and an updated Google image led him to conclude that he was on the Ismailia-Cairo road. Other slides taken at the site confirmed this theory.

The findings were published last week on a Hebrew website, after which a company commander at the time confirmed the location. He even recalled that one of his soldiers tossed a hand grenade into an electricity box at the junction to cut the telephone line between Ismailia and Cairo.

“The interesting thing is that hundreds of people passed that sign during the war without noticing it,” he added.

Benjamin Z. Kedar and the sign saying 99 km from Cairo. Credit: Courtesy

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