It was October 6, 1973.

And just as they done twice before, Israel’s neighboring nations launched a surprise attack, designed once and for all to initially wrestle the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights back into Arab control, with the long-range goal to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.

The Jewish nation had experience with this particular enemy, but not with this particular timing. It was no coincidence that October 6th that year was the Holiest Day in Judaism and thus, in all of Israel – Yom Kippur; the Day of Atonement.

Custom dictates that on Yom Kippur, Jews not only in Israel but all over the world, spend time in their synagogues or in their homes. And while there is no work on any Sabbath Day, such prohibition applies all the more so on a most special and reverent day like this. Every Jew knew that.

And so did every Egyptian and Syrian Army captain.

Surely those nations would catch Israel off guard on a day like this. A day when IDF soldiers would be more focused on putting on their tefillin than they would their guns. A day where everything stops, when Jews fast from food and drink. A day where the focus is to be entirely on the Lord, and not on protecting the soil.

But when you live in Israel, you don’t always have that luxury. Indeed, after 3 days of being pounded from the north and the south, Israel was at a stalemate with her enemies. Little more than two weeks later, the tiny Jewish nation would emerge victorious, thanks all to the glory of God of course.

And thanks be to God also for allowing a man named Billy Graham to play a part – however peripherally-  in helping Israel through it:

Richard Nixon was President at the time, and while a shipment of weapons to the Holy Land would have been sorely appreciated if perhaps not needed outright, Nixon, an outspoken critic of the Jewish people, would not have lifted a finger to help Israel militarily on his own. He’d need some convincing from someone who obviously cared more about Israel than he did. From someone who understood God’s plan for the nation and her people.

And that’s why Nixon got a phone call one day, and the voice on the other end told him to send a military airlift to Israel. The voice was none other than Billy Graham.

While there is and will no doubt be, much written about the great Pastor, Evangelist and Presidential advisor who passed away this week at age 99, it’s doubtful that much of what will be said, will include and unearth this little but precious bit of information on a man whose sermons changed heart and lives, and whose intervention also perhaps, helped change the outcome of the Yom Kippur War to further ensure Israel’s survival.

-Rabbi Jack Zimmerman