By: Jeff Seidel
In June 1967, the Jewish People stood at the face of another genocide; only nineteen years before had the atrocities of Nazi Germany’s genocide of 6 million Jews (wiping out a third of world Jewry) been exposed to the world. The State of Israel, though still in her youth, had the ability that previous generation of Jews could have never dreamed of—the ability to defend themselves. In the 1948 War of Independence, the Jewish State had succeeded with Czechoslovakian weapons and the hand of G-d, however, the tone of June 1967 was different. While American Jewry sat glued to their radios, listening to the sound of Egyptian troops gather along the Sinai-Israeli border, they were also praying that this would not be the end of the Zionist movement and the mass murder of Israeli Jewry.
With tension mounting on all sides, the wit of then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and strategically newly-appointed Defence Minister Moshe Dayan took over. The State of Israel launched a preemptive strike, wiping out the encroaching Egyptian troops, the Syrian troops entering from the north via the Golan Heights, and the Jordanian snipers overlooking proper Israel through Jerusalem’s Old City. In the aftermath, tiny Israel had defensively pushed back the Jordanians from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), the Egyptians from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrians from the Golan Heights. While the world views this tactical victory as a modern miracle, why the Jewish community does not commemorate this as a religious miracle has a wide range of explanations. As the Jewish People escaped not only a costly war on the side of causalities, but a swift brush of the Jewish State off the face of the Earth.
While it was an act from the supernatural that Moses led our people out of slavery from Egypt and split the Red Sea to ensure our freedom. Walking through the Land of Israel, one can see the ruins of Roman rule and the sites of Babylonian exile, not perceiving the brutality they used to obtain their objectives. Entering the walls of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Shoah (Holocaust), one can see the torment and pain that the Jewish People (and many others nations) had to withstand from the Third Reich. The aftermath of the Shoah left a mental scar in the minds of Jewish People all over the world. Seeing our ancestors starved, tortured, and mass murdered has given Diaspora Jewry a minority complex of wanting to be accepted by the world and has given Israeli Jewry a strong sense of militarism. There are pros and cons to how both populations perceived the greatest atrocity of the 20th century. During the Six-Day War, Israelis prepared for their demise, following the ways of our perpetrators from World War II, digging mass graves just in case of catastrophe as well as producing atomic weapons. Today in 2017, we have new evidence that Israel had a plan of last resort if the tide of the war would have turned. The commemoration of these events are perceived that the Jewish People survived with help from the divine. Today, Israel’s miraculous victory in the Six-Day War is not viewed by the Jewish People with the same spiritual emphasis, even though the occurrences endure many similarities.
War after war, decade after decade, the State of Israel’s existence is constantly threatened, though they been successful in defending the Jewish homeland. The 1967 Six-Day War was an unique conflict of uncertainty. Before, the Jewish State was a skeleton of a country, vulnerable at every border. After the war, Israel acquired real defensible borders. Though, even with all of the threats and unpredictably, we do not have the collective view that there could have been help from the divine. Is it because of the “war after war” mentality? The 1948 War of Independence was a war to have a country, the six strong Arab armies in 1967 also carried the image of a Judenrein Middle East. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War broke out immediately after Israel announced her independence, while in 1967 we were pushed into war with the strong senses of tension in the air. Unfortunately, it seems that the “war after war” mentality is one of the factors taking a toll on the Israeli nefesh (“soul”).
In the State of Israel today, even though all citizens enjoy full civil rights and love many aspects of this liberal democracy, many secular and religious Jews hesitate to recognize the country’s vertical legitimacy. Since Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, our eternal capital of Jerusalem has been in Israel’s hands. Some of us may not still be able to feel the fear that we held before the Six-Day War or the excitement of liberating the Kotel (Western Wall), but one can see the excitement and motto of “Jerusalem is in our hands” that still rings through the Jewish population on Yom Yerusalayim (Jerusalem Day). Today, whether one is Jewish, Muslim or Christian, Jerusalem has full freedom of religious (with the exception of Jews being allowed to pray on the Temple Mount due to strong security measures). The fact of Jerusalem being Israel’s capital is not accepted by most of the world, but more importantly not by some of world Jewry. In other words, some sects of world Jewry disregard the democratically elected government of Israel. This belief is not a broad brush of the world Jewry, though there are a wide range of opinions on this issue due to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. While many of us would prefer to see Israel given more internal legitimacy from this population, it is a factor that has prevented the Six-Day War of 1967 from being regarded as a blessing from our Creator. In the end, the Jewish People prevailed. In the minds of many, the State of Israel could not have been successful without the help of HaShem. It is time to feed this belief, keep praying, and be thankful for Israel’s prosperity.