The Israel Institute
presents this week's column
May 15, 2007
1967 Six Day War - 40th Anniversary of Jewish Rebirth
By Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.
May 14, 2007
I wonder who will remember one of the most important events in modern Jewish history? I am afraid that for most of the Jewish world, yet alone the non-Jewish world,this calendar date will lapse with barely a blink.
In Israel, events are marked by their Hebrew calendar date, and this year, the anniversaryof the Six Day War comes out on May 15th, one day following the historic May 14th,1948 date of Israel's creation. This is significant only because in the Arab worldand for Arab student organizations on university campuses across America, May 14this commemorated as the "Catastrophe Day". At many universities, there will be a week-longseries of fiery anti-Israel speeches along with heated anti-Israel marches and vulgarityscreaming anti-Israel demonstrations.
In contrast, in Jerusalem, the celebration for the "The Day of Jerusalem" markingthe fortieth anniversary of the 1967 - Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalemis commemorated by one of the most beautiful and moving ceremonies one can imagine. The main streets of Jerusalem's center city are closed to traffic. Tens of thousandsof young and old fill the streets briskly waving hundreds of full size Israeli flags,and musicians are posed every few blocks with loud speakers filling the air withtheir songs. As the musicians play popular Jewish melodies, the streets become adance stage for well choreographed circle dances and line dances -- each song withits own special dance steps. The joyous group singing on the street and the intensecommunity dancing is a unique sight. Following the hours of this street event a communitysinging march to Jerusalem's Old City begins. The march proceeds through the OldCity's ancient gates and cobblestone streets leading to the Western Wall - KotelPlaza. It is estimated that several thousands of people file through the Old City'spicturesque and narrow passageways to join in the hours of singing, dancing, andspeeches commemorating the Jewish return to a united Jerusalem.
In Jewish tradition, the number 40 has its own significance. It often refers to astage of maturation and accomplishment. The biblical Flood rains stopped after 40days, Moses was 40 when he confronted the Egyptian taskmaster, Moses was 80 whenhe confronted Pharaoh. The Jews were in the desert for 40 years prior to enteringthe Land of Israel, Rabbi Akiba was 40 when he began his study of Torah, and 40 isthe number of weeks leading to human birth. And now, this forty years of Jerusalem'sunification is a monumental and historic moment marking the miraculous victoriousSix Day War.
1967 was quite a different time. Israel had yet to reach its 20th anniversary. Ithad already experienced two wars. One, upon its creation, by neighbors who demandedthat the nascent state be destroyed immediately and the second war, eight years later,when its neighbors decided to cut off and strangulate Israel's supply lines.
Prior to 1967, relatively few American Jews even expressed an interest to visit Israel.Israel's first decades watched an immigrant absorbing country developed at a slowand struggling pace. With minimal resources, Israel invested in military protectionknowing that its Arab neighbors were preparing for another attempt to destroy it.During the 1960's, international support for Israel was tenuous at best. Israel'sneighbors were actively buying the most sophisticated weapons available. The worldknew this but continued to make it difficult for Israel to compete. Prior to 1967,the volume of belligerence and anti-Israel hate speech from the Arab world was becomingmore and more deafening. Egypt's President Nassar made his intent clear to the world-- that Israel's days were numbered. The theme of pushing the Jews into the sea becamea steady crescendo on the Arab street. Time, Newsweek, and other publications reportedmilitary statistics comparing Israel's military strength to that of her threateningArab neighbors. Israel was heavily outnumbered and out-armed in every military category.The military comparison charts appeared as if an ant was being compared to an elephant.The American Jewish community, as well as much of the world, was bracing for the annihilation of the Jewish state. There was no imaginable way for Israel to survivethe sheer numbers and mighty force of the expected Arab attack without the militarysupport of the United Kingdom or America. But that super power support was not tobe found.
Once again, the Arabs cut off the supply lines to Israel, a clear act of war, andwithout hesitation, the leadership of Israel commanded the Israeli Defense Forcesto launch their attack.
Within hours, the entire Egyptian air force and all Egyptian air fields were disabled.In days of fighting, the vast number of Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian tanks becameuseless heaps of scrap metal. And then the Israeli forces entered the Old City ofJerusalem. After very costly and deadly hand to hand combat battles against theJordanian Old City soldiers, in shock and awe, the Israeli paratroopers found themselvesstanding victorious in front of the ancient Western Wall of the Temple Mount. The famous and emotional phrase spoken into the Israeli army radio transmitter was theannouncement, "Jerusalem is in our hands.
"The world had gone to bed envisioning that by the next morning Israel would havebeen wiped off the face of the map. The resulting news was quite different. In sixdays, the Sinai Desert, the Gaza Strip, the Jordan West Bank, the Golan Heights,Jerusalem's Old City, and its surrounding areas were fully under Israeli control. All of the menacing Arab armies had been destroyed or forced to retreat.West Point military analysts speak of the Six Day War as an inexplicable militaryvictory. "Miraculous" was the West Point officer's explanation for the Israeli DefenseForce's victory over what was believed to be impossible odds.In 1967, it was still okay for an army to achieve an absolute victory. Subsequentto that date, Israel has not been allowed to defeat its enemy. In future wars andconflicts Israel would unbelievably be pressured by world powers not to accomplisha full military victory, to neglect enemy aggressions, and to even provide the enemywith guns and ammunition.
1967 was a time that Israelis were not told that they are "tired of fighting andtired of winning battles". Jews at that time understood that when their enemy saysthat they are going to kill them, the enemy means what it says and Israel does notwait to be attacked.
During that time, no one believed that the enemy could be appeased or that, if victorious,the enemy would responsibly stop fighting at the original 1947 UN lines. It was understoodthroughout Israel that there was only one thing that the Arabs had hoped to achieve,and now after 40 years, that goal of the destruction of Israel has not been relinquished.Following 1967, respect for Israel and the Jews soared throughout the world. Slumberingand even non-identifying Jews began to proudly identify with the Jewish people andthe Jewish State. Israel had accomplished a victory of good over evil, and few inthe world had any doubt about it.Forty years is a time of great significance. It is a time of reflection and rebirth-- 1967 marked the rebirth of the Jewish people, their values, their mission, andtheir right to exist and to contribute to this world. World politics has tried toreframe this Jewish Israeli victory into a defeat, and it is up to us to preventhistory from being erased, eroded, or confused. The 1967 victory was a victory forhumankind. The lessons of that era have not changed and therefore must not be forgotten.
Daryl Temkin, Ph.D. is the founder and director of the Israel Institute which isdevoted to teaching the historic and spiritual importance of Israel as well as presentingdiscussions concerning contemporary issues confronting the Jewish State and the MiddleEast. The Israel Institute also promotes Israel's high tech industries working toproduce clean air, clean water, and clean power, for safeguarding the world's future.Dr. Temkin's forthcoming book is titled, Jewish Thought for the Christian Mind. Dr.Temkin can be reached at:DT [mailto:DT@Israel-Institute.com]@Israel-Institute.com[mailto:DT@Israel-Institute.com].