Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 06/05/2017

REMEMBERING THE SIX-DAY WAR

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Israeli paratroopers stand in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Monday, 05 June 2017 | The flow of history is punctuated by wars and battles that changed the status quo and altered the destiny of regions and nations. No list of conflicts that have swayed the state of world affairs is complete without Israel’s Six-Day War.

Some call it the war that transformed the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East as a whole. Still more hail it as a turning point in Israeli and world history. Others see it as the watershed event that launched the infant Jewish state from a rag-tag nation to a regional superpower. While the Six-Day War is arguably all of the above, it also stands out in the annals of history for something more: an against-all-odds victory miraculously snatched from a foe boasting a larger, better equipped army—all in under a week. In fact, the Six- Day War, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently, was “a miracle and a salvation for Israel.”

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War. Almost half a century has passed since the morning of 5 June 1967, when a command from the head of the Israel Air Force unleashed a surprise aerial attack on the Egyptian air force, a move that resulted in one of the most brilliant pre-emptive strikes in modern history—and marked the start of six days of war.

As with Israel’s previous wars, the odds of victory were not in the Jewish state’s favor. In fact, the people of the Promised Land once again prepared for battle from what appeared to be a hopeless position: backed into a corner, isolated on the world stage and vastly outgunned and outnumbered. Some 80,000 Egyptian troops, 60,000 Jordanian troops, 50,000 Syrian troops and more than 850 tanks and 600 combat aircraft, stood poised for attack. Armed and equipped with double the amount of soldiers, three times the number of tanks and four times as many combat aircraft, victory did, after all, appear within easy reach.

5Feb1917ComblesFranceWWIFaced with the desperate odds, the powers-that-be in Israel decided to act first, hoping that the element of surprise would give the tiny nation the edge. Having exhausted all other options, the Jewish state knew that another war was a matter of when, not if. The winds of war had started howling long before the morning of 5 June 1967. Despite Israel’s victory in 1949 and again in 1956 against its hostile neighbors, the Arab nations still refused to recognize Israel’s existence and continued to call for her destruction. Moreover, raids and attacks from Egypt, Jordan and Syria meant that the nation was caught in a perpetual state of conflict. Then, on 22 May 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran to all ships heading to and from Israel, a move meant to cripple the Jewish state economically. Any other country would have considered this an act of war. Yet tiny, war-weary Israel attempted a route of peaceful negotiation.

Reconciliation was, however, not an option for the Arab nations. “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel,” Nasser proclaimed on 27 May 1967. Three days later, Iraq’s president confirmed, “Our goal is clear—to wipe Israel off the map.”

Cairo and Damascus had already combined the might of their armies, and Egypt soon embarked on a similar sinister plot with Jordan. The stage was set. The Arab war machine stood poised on the borders of the Promised Land, waiting for the command to annihilate the Jewish people once and for all.

As Israel entered into yet another war it did not want, the prospects were grim. The atmosphere hanging over the Jewish state was one of foreboding. Schools closed their doors. All public transport ceased. As the men marched off to war, teenagers joined the effort by filling sandbags. School halls transformed into massive bomb shelters. Hospitals stood at the ready for the tens of thousands who were bound to be wounded in the fighting to follow. Government allowed public parks to be dug up to prepare a burial place for an estimated 10,000 casualties.

soldiersnewYet six days later, everybody—including many in the Jewish state—stood stunned. In one hundred and thirty-one hours and fifty minutes, the vastly outnumbered Jewish state had managed to beat the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. In the six days from 5 to 10 June 1967, Israel won one of the most unexpected and decisive victories in military history. In less than one week, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) managed to destroy 85% of Egypt’s military hardware. The Egyptians also lost all their bombers and nearly 85% of their combat aircraft—the majority on 5 June 1967, the very first day of war. The Syrians and Jordanians did not fare much better. All of the Hashemite Kingdom’s airfields and bombers were demolished, while the Syrian air force also suffered heavy blows. When the six days of war came to an end, Israel had captured hundreds of Jordanian and Syrian tanks, military vehicles and guns and had access to many Egyptian ammunition caches.

Above all, when the smoke of battle had settled on 10 June 1967, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people was once again united. Moreover, after almost two decades under Jordanian occupation, Judea and Samaria, the ancestral land of the Jewish people, saw the children of the patriarchs return to the hills and valleys that countless Jewish generations had once known as home.

In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, military strategists and analysts praised the might of the IDF. Yet while the troops fought valiantly, even Moshe Dayan, commander of the Israeli forces in 1967, recognized the astounding victory as a miracle.

On the seventh day, after the din of battle had died down, Commander Dayan made his way to the Western Wall to tuck a note in the cleft between two ancient white stones. The message on the scrap of paper was penned thousands of years ago by Israel’s King David, This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:23).

Source: (by: Ilse Posselt, Bridges for Peace, 05 June 2017)

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