SCJS’s Israel Studies Collaborative will host North America’s single largest conference on the Yom Kippur War this month, Oct. 21–22 in the Glickman Conference Center of the College of Liberal Arts building.
The Yom Kippur War: 40 Years Later, which is free and open to the public, will focus on the military, social, and diplomatic aspects of the war, a 1973 conflict between Israel and the coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria. Dr. Naomi Lindstrom, SCJS Acting Director, emphasized the scope and expertise of the conference and its presenters.
"This comprehensive conference analyzes the Yom Kippur War in all its aspects, with the leading experts bringing to bear their perspectives on preparedness, intelligence, strategy, diplomacy and defense," Lindstrom said.
The Yom Kippur War, or the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, spanned a 19-day period beginning on Oct. 6, 1973, when the Arab coalition launched a surprise attack against Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year. Despite early successes for Egypt, Syria and their ally the Soviet Union, Israel mounted a formidable defense with the help of the U.S., and the war ended on Oct. 25 with a U.N.-negotiated ceasefire. As one of the most significant Arab-Israeli conflicts of the 20th century, the war had complex and far-reaching diplomatic, military and political implications for the Middle East and its western allies.
“Although most people consider the Six-Day War the most significant war between Israel and its neighbors, it was the Yom Kippur War that changed the political landscape of the Middle East,” said government professor Ami Pedahzur, head of the Israel Studies Collaborative and one of the conference’s primary organizers. “On the one hand, it jumpstarted the peace process with Egypt, and on the other hand, it led to the founding of Gush Emunim, Israel’s settling movement.”
Pedahzur and Dr. Ariel Ilan Roth, Executive Director of the Israel Institute, conceived of the conference in March as a way to mark the war’s 40th anniversary and provide leading scholars a platform to present groundbreaking new work. As one of the most studied campaigns among military historians, the Yom Kippur War has been the subject of myriad academic works and many large conferences in Israel, especially within the past month. With its contemporary resonance, historical importance, and recent anniversary, the war made an ideal conference topic for the Schusterman Center's burgeoning Israel Studies Collaborative.
“It is hard to describe the importance of the war for understanding current-U.S.-Israeli relations, the peace process in the Middle East, and the evolution of the Israeli political system over the last four decades,” Pedahzur said. “Furthermore, this war serves as a textbook case for scholarship on strategic surprises, military strategies, military innovations and the Cold War.”
Pedahzur and Roth reached out to leading scholars in the fields of political science and military and strategic history to present at the conference. The roster, which includes both Americans and Israelis, will feature Admiral Ami Ayalon, of the University of Haifa, as the conference’s keynote speaker. Pedahzur also recruited three participants to organize panels: Israeli Consul General Meir Shlomo, Dr. Zeev Drory of Kinneret College and Dr. Yoav Gelber of the University of Haifa.(Click here for the full conference program or here for presenter biographies.)
While the war occurred nearly half a century ago, the conflict in the Middle East still persists, and the reverberations of this conflict—among others—are felt to this day. Pedahzur stressed the value in studying the war from a political and strategic perspective.
“Forty years after the Yom Kippur War, it is important to be reminded of the lessons the war has taught us,” Pedahzur said. “The international arena is extremely unpredictable and thus the main task of security establishments worldwide is always to expect the unexpected.”
With the magnitude of the Yom Kippur War and its enduring repercussions, it is perhaps fitting that it inspired the ISC's largest event yet. Dr. Naomi Lindstrom said the event speaks to the future of the ISC, and The University of Texas itself, as a hub for leading academic work on Israel and international politics at large.
"[The Yom Kippur War: 40 Years Later] demonstrates the ability of the Israel Studies Collaborative to make The University of Texas at Austin the focus, not only of the study of Israel, but also of issues of security that are of vital relevance globally," Lindstrom said. "In coming years, we at the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies expect the Israel Studies Collaborative to keep The University of Texas in the public eye by virtue of its ability to provide top-grade analyses of the dilemmas that Israel has faced and the lessons to be learned internationally."