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In the Sands of Sinai: A Physician's Account of the Yom Kippur War

Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc, is a Professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC. He was born and raised in Haifa, Israel and graduated from the Hareali Haivri High School, earning his medical degree from Hebrew Universi...

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Reviews

Grade 
06/02/2015

reviewed

A cousin gave me this book.I always wondered how people just my age managed during the Yom KippUr War.We worried wondered and sent money, but we were here and safe.I loved the immediacy and detail with which the tale was told.A really worthwhile read!

    Grade 
    04/03/2015

    reviewed

    In spite of lacking the excitement of other books where bombs explode and bullet whiz all over the place, this book give us a good insight of a side of war which is not seen or shown to us, where soldiers, as real as those who execute raids and engage in aerial battles, fight and support other fighters in a war that is as real as war can be.I use it for a project in an Army school, and its information concerning the effects of war in the psychic of Israelis is extremely insightful.

      Grade 
      02/07/2015

      reviewed

      Dr. Itzhak Brook, currently a professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University is the author of In The Sands Of Sinai: A Physician’s Account Of The yom Kippur War. In October 1973 his life was busy with his Pediatrics residency, applying for fellowship training in the US and caring for his wife and two young children when he was suddenly called up like all reservists to fight for Israel’s survival. Through his intense wartime experience ending with being wounded in the line of duty, he explores the nation’s anger with leadership’s poor preparedness resulting in excessive casualties, his efforts to manage his own ambulance/aid-station unit hampered by an obsolete vehicle lacking radio communications, and the soldiers’ psychological responses to war and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a diagnosis not yet recognized in that time.

        Grade 
        08/03/2014

        reviewed

        There are many great books about the Yom Kippur war. For example, Kahalani's "Heights of Courage" takes you into one of the tanks that stopped the Syrian invasion, Herzog's "The War of Atonement" presents a military analyst's view of every step of the war, Boyne's "The Two O'Clock War" covers the American airlift that saved Israel. Brook's book is completely different. It is a personal journal of a Doctor who gets called up for reserve duty, and slowly, step by step, he takes you along on his journey from safe haven of Tel Aviv to the hell of the Suez canal battles and back. The book develops almost like a Kafkaesque story: at each stage he gets a little closer to the war, until suddenly he finds himself right in the middle of it, and after saving lives and taking care of others, he finds himself wounded under surrealistic and unexpected circumstances and gets evacuated.Brook's book is intensely personal. He invites you to share his thoughts rather than describe battles. He starts with a wonderful description of his family's relationship with Yom Kippur, and the thoughts that go through his head as he hears the jet planes roaring above and gets called up for reserve duty. As he prepares himself and his unit to treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield, he describes the medical equipment they will be carrying, as well as his personal "Uzi" gun, which will keep him safe in the war, and the terrible irony of possibly having to fight and kill in order to save lives. He candidly discusses his feelings about going to war as a new father: this time it's not just about him anymore.Another highlight for me as the chapter about "religion in war", in which he conveys his thoughts about two religious men who were in his unit. Without an ounce of condescension or cynicism, he describes how they gain strength and resolve from their prayers, and struggles with his own views on the role of religion throughout Jewish history and in the modern state of Israel. He also deals very candidly with many medical and ethical questions that are unique to war, for example, he tells the story of a supply driver who asks for valium to control his fear and nerves while driving supplies to the front lines. Should be give him the medicine to allow him to carry on with his duty even though it may impair his driving and put him in danger?In the last chapter, after recovering from his wounds and moving to the USA, Dr. Brook tells of the difficulties of integrating into American society where people did not really want to hear his war stories, and were not necessarily as understanding as he expected of Israel's need to defend itself. Dr. Brook has obviously had an illustrious career as a physician and professor, but he still carries the toll of that war with him in his mind, and now, 40 years later, he has found a way to let us share in his most private thoughts and traumas.

          Grade 
          08/01/2014

          reviewed

          "In the Sands of Sinai" is an excellent memoir of Dr. Itzhak Brook's experiences as a battalion physician during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Dr. Brook provides the reader with a detailed and unvarnished description of his daily struggles during Israel's bloody 17-day war. Dr. Brook not only delves into the difficulties of tending the wounded but, perhaps even more importantly, he honestly confronts his own struggles in how best to help soldiers cope with the psychological trauma of war. While never trained in psychology, Dr. Brook provides a fascinating story of how his own thinking changed about the relationship between courage and fear. In the macho world of the Israeli Army, it was unmanly to admit fear. However, Dr. Brook quickly learned that this attitude was making it harder, not easier, for soldiers to cope with the stresses of war. And, from that moment on, he admitted to the soldiers his own fears. "It's okay to be afraid," he told them. And, in most instances, he observed their immediate relief.In sum, Dr. Brook provides a compact background of the State of Israel, his own family and the political situation in Israel during that period. "In the Sands of Sinai" is not only valuable for medical professionals and students of war history but also for anyone who wants a better understanding of how to cope with the fear and anxiety of war.Reviewed by Zev Primor, a veteran of the Yom Kippur War.

            Grade 
            03/09/2014

            reviewed

            Dr. Itzhak Brook’s first person account of the 1973 Yom Kippur War is captivating in the tale he tells and in the lessons taught. In the Sands of the Sinai, A physician’s Account of the Yom Kippur War, is a timely reminder that individuals make the difference. Cast your mind to any holiday you find most pleasing. In the days leading up to that morning, you’ve worked yourself to exhaustion. Your sleep is deep as your unconscious mind is soothed by the familiar sounds, smells and feel of this day; the culmination of your year. Instead of the joy and relaxation you know you’ve earned, you rudely awaken to war and an imminent threat to your family and your life. Most U.S. citizens alive today can only come as close to that threat as the morning of September 11, 2001. Imagine if that horror were to happen nation-wide. That is the world that rudely grabbed Brook’s dreams in a bedroom in Rehovot, Israel and threatened his wife and two young children on the morning of Yom Kippur in 1973.An eternally long fourteen days later, Brook would return from that war forever changed. Told with the skill inbred from a culture that values oral history as a complement to the written word, Brook takes his readers for a ride rather than a read. From the time Itzhak Brook lifts his foggy head from the pillow to wrap his mind around the reality of an all-out assault on Israel by Egypt and Syria to his return as a wounded war veteran; the reader lives his life in the trenches of the Sinai. Few realize how close Israel came to annihilation and how ill-prepared the country was to answer the surprise attack.The growing realization of the failure of a government Brook has believed and trusted winds its way through the parable as the troops prepare to meet their fate head-on. Israel is a tiny country with an area of 8,026 square miles that would easily fit into Yavapai County in Arizona. By comparison the invaders, Egypt and Syria, encompass 386,700 square miles and 71,498 square miles respectively and are populated accordingly. To the Israeli military’s credit all men and women within the appointed age range are in the military reserves and exercise regularly. In my opinion, that fact probably saved Israel from being lost to its government’s arrogance.Arriving at the muster, the good doctor discovers that his vehicle will be a bright blue private van, which his medical team converts to a makeshift ambulance. So as not to stick out like a sore thumb in the desert, the van is camouflaged by wetting it down and throwing sand on it. Short of supplies and appropriate defensive weapons, this hardy group innovates and makes-do as they rush to the fighting front in the Sinai. There are few communications so the tank logistics group-fuel, water, supplies, medical support-uses the one baud approach. One body takes the orders and drives backward down the convoy verbally relaying the orders and other information. The medical team is bringing up the rear and is always the last to know. It is a rag-tag convoy of military vehicles interspersed with commandeered private vehicles and everyday heroes fighting for survival. It is hot and demanding work. During the first twenty-four hours, everyone is working with no energy until sundown as they respect the fast of Yom Kippur.The Israeli leadership advised the troops that war would begin toward sunset. Shockingly, the attack was at 2:30 p.m., much earlier than projected and the logistics support group rushed forward to the front to take care of their tanks. Dr. Brook was faced with fear, injuries and a built in reality that, if Israel lost this one, his family would be destroyed. The early going was not good and the tanks, the pride of Israel, took a beating from armor piercing missiles. It was an ugly new development.To his great credit Brook never left his ability to learn and innovate behind. Leadership was far away and the burden fell on his shoulders to figure out how best to proceed. He integrated the Biblical battle lessons hard-learned thousands of years ago on this same desert and coupled his current knowledge to find solutions where none were apparent. He unraveled and found an in-theater treatment vehicle for Post-Traumatic Stress before he knew it had been labeled. Brook identified and labeled the characteristics of the everyday heroes on the battlefield. He steadfastly solved one problem after another and honed his character in the calculus.Injured by an artillery shell, Brook was evacuated after fourteen days; a lifetime. Israel survived; they did not win. When the tide finally turned, the Israeli military was at Damascus’ door but Henry Kissinger slammed it. The U.S. sent much-needed materials but denied Israel a buffer from the large countries, which surround Israel like a pack of hungry wolves filled with hate. Brook recounts his encounter with the injured enemy and the decision that tested his moral base. He saw the fear in the man’s eyes as he approached him and his own memories burned with the atrocities committed on his brothers and sisters at their hands. In that instant he decided to treat this injured man as he would all others. Perhaps they would remember and, one day, reciprocate.Brook survived. He came to the U.S. to complete his specialty and joined the U.S. military where he served over twenty years. He brings Cold War (1947-1991) lessons into sharp relief. Israel came a micro-millimeter from losing its hard won sovereignty because the government was still high on the victory of the Six-Day War.The Israeli government was not prepared or informed. Israel had underestimated its enemy. If Brook exemplifies the typical Israeli of that period, the citizens of Israel were betrayed not by Egypt or Syria but by their own government. The U.S ought to relate to Israel’s predicament because it did almost the same thing in Korea with the same results. Yet, it appears, the U.S. has lost the lesson again and, once more, high on its own assumed superiority is underestimating an enemy. The arrogance of governments is paid with the blood of its citizens.

              Grade 
              01/01/2014

              reviewed

              I was so delighted to come across this unique book. It really gives you a sense of the Yom Kippur War from a very different perspective, It reads like a story that you can't put down. It is so well written that you actually get the feeling that you are next to the author as he confronts the daily trials of a physician during war. I highly recommend this most captivating and informative book.

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                In the Sands of Sinai: A Physician's Account of the Yom Kippur War

                In the Sands of Sinai: A Physician's Account of the Yom Kippur War

                Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc, is a Professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC. He was born and raised in Haifa, Israel and graduated from the Hareali Haivri High School, earning his medical degree from Hebrew Universi...