When Syrian and Egyptian forces launched simultaneous attacks on Israel on Yom Kippur of 1973, the IDF found itself woefully unprepared. The high command, just ten days before the war began, finally acted on repeated warnings of imminent war and ordered Colonel Avigdor Ben-Gal to move his tank brigade from the Sinai to the Golan Heights; the last units were still arriving when the fighting began. Even with Ben-Gal’s tanks, Israel had a single, understrength division on the Golan, which faced an onslaught from three battle-ready Syrian armored divisions. Abraham Rabinovich tells the story of how Ben-Gal’s troops held the line:
The Syrians calculated that Israeli reserve units could not reach the Golan in less than 24 hours. Damascus expected to capture the Heights before then. Until Israel’s reserves joined the battle, the main burden of holding the enemy at bay would fall upon young conscripts—draftees—and their regular army commanders.
Informed by [his superiors] at 10 a.m. on Yom Kippur of the warning [that Syria would attack], Ben-Gal summoned his battalion and company commanders by radio to a meeting at the main army base in the northern Golan, Nafakh. . . . The officers would meet again at 2 p.m., by which time the situation might be clearer. With that, the brigade commander drove to the front. . . . The officers were just arriving for the 2 p.m. meeting when MiGs dropped bombs on the camp. “Everyone to your tanks,” Ben-Gal shouted. A sentry already lay dead at the gateway. . . .
After days of [intense fighting], Ben-Gal’s control was unraveling as officers were hit and orders not passed on. There appeared to be no alternative but to have the tanks fall back. Even if they managed to outrace the Syrians to a new line, however, they would not be able to hold it for more than half an hour, he estimated, in the absence of proper defensive positions. He decided on a last desperate bid to shore up the collapsing line. . . .
The bid worked, and the remnants of the brigade managed to hold the northern Golan for five days, at which point reinforcements arrived and the Syrians retreated. Three-quarters of Ben-Gal’s tank crews were killed or wounded; he managed to get the survivors a one-day respite before beginning a counterattack.