Welcome back! As Israel heads toward celebration of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), we are taking a look at what that day represents. It is in celebration of victory in the Six Day War of 1967, and this year marks the Jubilee Year (50th anniversary of that all-important victory).
Yesterday, we focused on Israel’s Greatest Hour of Danger, including the events that led up to the Six Day War. We will move forward, looking at these ideas today, and in days to come:
- Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future – events of the war
- Superpowers Face Off – US and Russian involvement in the Six Day War
- Six Days of Miracles – God brings the victory for Israel
- Biblical Significance of the Six Day War
- Aftermath of the Six Day War
Six Days that Changed Israel’s Future
As noted yesterday, the contention between the line of Isaac (Jews) and the line of Ishmael (Arabs) began at the birth of those two brothers, and continues to this day. By 1967, Israel had already miraculously defeated much larger and much better armed Arab nations in the War of Independence (1948) and the Suez War (1956), leaving the Arabs humiliated and vowing to destroy the tiny Jewish state.
The 1960’s saw the rise of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, a crafty and conniving Jew-hater. The PLO began launching terrorist attacks in the early 1960’s and attacks became more frequent in the mid-60’s (at least 35 raids into Israel in 1965, 41 in 1966, and 37 in the first few months of 1967). Attackers infiltrated Israel from Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.
Rhetoric from Arafat and Egyptian President Nasser repetitively called for the destruction of the state of Israel, with the aim of perfecting Arab military might.
In May of 1967, Egyptian troops moved into the Sinai and massed near Israel’s southern border. Meanwhile, Syrian troops prepared for battle in the north, on the Golan Heights. On May 22, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli shipping, cutting off Israel’s only supply route with Asia, and stopping the flow of oil from Iran, Israel’s main supplier. All the while, President Nasser of Egypt taunted Israel: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight….we will not coexist with Israel.” King Hussein of Jordan and President Abdur Rahman Aref of Iraq joined in the war of words, and Arab troops were mobilized. Roughly 465,000 Arab troops, 2800 tanks and 800 aircraft encircled Israel.
“I believe we could find ourselves in a situation in which the existence of Israel is at great risk.”
~Chief of Staff Lt Gen Yitzhak Rabin
Israel decided to preempt the expected Arab attack and the element of surprise was key. On June 5, 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol gave the order to attack. These six days literally changed Israel’s future, and here is how they played out:
Day 1 (June 5):
- The IDF had trained extensively in rapid refitting of aircraft returning from sorties, enabling a single aircraft to fly up to four missions per day.
- By 7:30am, Israeli planes were in the air, headed for Egyptian airbases, flying extremely low so as not to be detected by Egyptian radar.
- A miracle occurred…but more about that in a day or two!
- The element of surprise allowed the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to obliterate six Egyptian airfields, destroying over 200 aircraft (about half of Egypt’s air force).
Day 2 (June 6):
- Constant battle for 24 hours left IAF pilots weary and their aircraft low on ammunition, yet Israel continued to press on the Sinai front, both in the air and on the ground.
- As ground troops advanced, massive explosions were heard in the distance. When they arrived, Israeli soldiers found that the Egyptians had destroyed their own equipment and abandoned their bases. Some outposts were left with supplies as the Egyptians hastily retreated. (Another miracle?)
Day 3 (June 7):
- Political pressure for an Israeli ceasefire, under the proposal of King Hussein of Jordan, was nearing execution when, suddenly, King Hussein became unwilling to comply with his own terms! (Miracle?)
- The delay in ceasefire allowed time for the IDF to finish annihilating opposition infrastructure, AND to follow through with the mission to invade and bring the Old City of Jerusalem back under Israeli control! (Jordan had been in control since Israel became a nation in 1948.)
- Paratroopers successfully recaptured the Old City, including Temple Mount and the Western Wall. Jerusalem was united as the capital of the Jewish people.
Day 4 (June 8):
- The city of Hebron, a holy city and the resting place of Hebrew Patriarchs and Matriarchs, was once home to a sizable Jewish population and almost 60 synagogues. However, Jews had been banned from the city and its synagogues destroyed.
- When the IDF marched in, they found white sheets of surrender hanging from windows all over town. The Arab population surrendered.
- The West Bank had also been under the control of Jordan, yet Israel conquered it on this day, bringing it back under full Israeli control.
Day 5 (June 9):
- Attention shifted to the Golan Heights, where Israel suffered significant casualties in efforts to fight the uphill battle to overtake the Golan Heights. Commander Musa Klein’s platoon of 25 men, however, continued upwards.
- Nearing the top, Klein’s men charged Tel Fakhr, not knowing it was one of the most heavily fortified Syrian positions on the Golan, with bunkers and trenches inside a double row of wire.
- In opposition, the Syrian commander gave orders for his men not to fire until the Israelis breached the wire, yet it was too late! The Jews were already inside. Victorious, they continued up the Heights.
Day 6 (June 10):
- Fortification upon the Golan Heights was significant. First, it was literally an uphill campaign into well-entrenched, fortified positions, manned by 75,000 Syrian troops. Bunkers were virtually immune to attack, and one Israeli official estimated the cost of Israeli human lives at 30,000. Life is precious to Jews, but their very existence was on the line. There was no reasonable solution. (They simply had to depend upon the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to protect and sustain them…and He did!)
- After many hours of extremely heavy fighting the day before, the IDF managed to establish strongholds on the Golan Heights and were pressing toward Damascus. As the dawn of June 10 broke, Israeli forces were facing another day of fierce fighting…but it never occurred.
- In a panic, the Syrian army pulled out of the Golan Heights and retreated in chaos, leaving most of their weapons behind.
- The Golan Heights, overlooking the Galilee region of Israel, had once been a place to murder Jews. Now it was in their hands!
- The final offensive was completed and, on June 10, 1967, a ceasefire was signed.
Six days that absolutely changed Israel’s future. Six days after Israel’s “greatest hour of danger,” rather than annihilation, Israel defeated the Arab forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and others, and tripled the size of their nation! Beyond just the land of Israel, they now controlled the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. (Take a look at the territory on the map to the right.)
But most importantly: for the first time in about 2,000 years, Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli control, and Jews could freely visit the Western Wall, their most sacred site.
Gang, those are a few of the details of the war, but you need to know “the rest of the story!” Hang with me over the next few days. Tomorrow we will touch on the roles the US and Russia (the world’s superpowers at the time) played in this whole ordeal! Then it’s on to miracles and Biblical significance. Don’t miss it!
In only a few days, Israel will celebrate Jerusalem Day, the 50th anniversary of the victory. If you have not already done so, why not send your congratulatory remarks!