1967- Events Leading to the Six Day War - History

1967- Events Leading to the Six Day War - History

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Dayan and Eshkol

The Egyptians mobilized their forces and entered the Sinai. They closes the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and threatened to attack Israel. Israel tried international diplomamcy, but when that did not work they decided to launch an attack first.

In October and November 1966, terrorist activity originating in Syria and Jordan began to rise. There were also constant Syrian artillery attacks on kibbutzim (collective settlements) located below the Golan Heights. In April 1967, Israel decided to respond aerially by attacking Syrian emplacements on the Golan Heights. On April 7, there was an air-battle during which Israel downed six Syrian aircraft. Following the April attack, the Israeli government warned that it would be forced to take further action unless terrorism from Syria was ended. The Soviets then passed false intelligence information to the Egyptians, claiming that Israel was massing troops to strike at Syria. Israel denied these claims, and U.N. ground observers confirmed Israeli claims.

The Egyptians decided to heed the Soviet warnings and on May 14th as Israel was celebrating its independence it put armed forces on alert and started moving them into the Sinai. Israel responded with a partial call up of its own reservist.

On May 16th head of the Egyptian armed forces General Muhammad Fawzi sends a letter to the United Nations Emergency Forces Commander requesting that he removes UN forces from the border. On May 18th Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad requests that the UN remove all of its forces from Egyptian soil including from Gaza Stirp . UN Secreatary General U-Thant agree to withdraw forces. Israel begin calling up more reservist.

On May 22nd Eytptian President Nasser announces the closing of the Gulf of Aquaba to all Israeli shipping. He says “The Jews threaten War we tell them welcome we are ready for war”

On May 23rd Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol calls the closure of the straits a violation of International law and an act of aggression against Israel. That same day US President Johnson says “the United States considers the Gulf to be an International waterway and feels that a blockade of Israeli shipping is illegal and potentially disastrous for the cause of peace.. The right of Free passage of the international waterway is a vital interest of the international community” An attempt to get a resolution passed at the UN security council condemning the bloackade failed due to a Soviet veto.

Meanwhile the US tried to put together an international flotilla to open up the Straits of Tiran. However it found most nations were unwilling to take part in the effort and eventually had to give it up

On May 28th Abba Eban returns for the US and the cabinet holds a marathon session to decide on whether to give the US more time or give a green light to the army to attack preemptively.
Israel could ill afford to have all of its army mobilized for a long period, since at the time most men between 22 and 56 were mobilized. - These events were happening soon after the Eichman trial the spector of another Holocaust loomed. The cabinet reluctantly voted to give the US more time. Eshkio then gives a speech to the nation that is delivered so poorly as to increase fear and demands for a new government.
to Eshklol declares in a speech to the nation that Israel will rely on diplomacy a little longer. The speech was poorly delivered and there were calls for a new government

On May 29th Nasser stated :” The issue today is not the question of Aqaba or the Straits of Tiran or UNEF. The issue is the rights of the people of Palestine, the aggression that took place against them in 1948. We want the rights of the people of Palestine complete”

May 30th King Hussein fo Jordan visits Cairo and signs a treaty of defense with Egypt puts Jordainain troops under Cairo’s command in case of war.

May 31s The US fails to put together an international flotilla to open the straits

Jaune 1 New Israeli government that includes the opposition parties. Moshe Dayan is the new Defense Minister

It had become clear that the US was not going to be able to put together and word was received that the US understood if Israel had to take action

Did God Help Israel During The Six Day War?

Not that long ago I covered the angel sightings at the Battle Of Mons and that reminded me about this next case. I heard about this a long time ago on maybe unsolved mysteries or one of those type of paranormal shows when I was a kid. And I was just amazed by these stories and these sightings, it really just blew my mind. In the spring of 1967 the Jewish people of Israel were preparing for war as they were about to be attacked by 4 pretty powerful army’s within that region at that time. Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. And these 4 combined nations had a heck of a lot more soldiers, more tanks, planes, fire power and experience than the Israelis. And many believed that this was going to be the 2nd holocaust as nobody thought that they were going to survive this attack. But not in years or months the Israelis were victorious in 6 days and it was considered by many to be a miracle as there had never been a victory like this in modern history.

And not to long after and still to this very day soldiers from both sides have come forward claiming that they had witnessed things that they just couldn’t explain. Now the Jewish state of Israel official happened in may 14, 1948 and ever since then there have been battles and other divine sightings. One very famous case happened in 1958 when the IDF “The Israel Defense Force” went into the Golan Heights to fight the Syrian army. And a man from the IDF got run over by a tank and he was seriously wounded. And the Syrian soldiers saw this man lying helpless on the battlefield so they pulled out their guns as if they were going to shoot him. But all a sudden they just started to run away. And these Syrian soldiers later stated that they saw thousands of angels around this man. And at about the exact same time this wounded soldier said that he had heard the voice of God. And this voice, God told him that he was not finished with him yet and this man survived.

Then In 1973 a lone Israeli soldier took an entire Egyptian patrol all by himself. And when they asked the Egyptian commander why he and his men gave themselves up to this one lone soldier he replied “one soldier, no there were thousands of them” and when the crossed into Israel territory these beings disappeared. And this soldier who was now a hero said that he couldn’t make any sense of it, he thought that he was going to die. But instead the Egyptian forces just turned themselves in. And in another case a small Jewish community with no soldiers was under attack by Arab forces when all a sudden they just ran away in great fear. And they later stated that they were being attacked by huge strange beings with flaming swords.

Now during the six day war something else other than divine beings happened and it’s just as baffling. One day 2 Israeli soldiers were on patrol when they saw in the distance an Egyptian half track equipped with mounted machine guns and filled with soldiers heading right towards them. And these 2 soldiers had nowhere to hide so they had no other option but to stand their ground the best they could. But these Egyptians never attacked and their half track just stopped. So the 2 Israelis approached this vehicle and they saw 18 soldiers cowering in fear. And these men were begging for mercy and they gave up. So the 2 Israelis captured these 18 men. And when they were later asked why didn’t they shoot they replied that they were about to attack but then they were just struck with fear and their body’s froze. It was as if somehow they became paralyzed, they could barely hold onto their weapons. Now there was just no explanation for this so these 2 Israelis and also the Egyptians believed that god must have done this to them.

In another case an IDF truck filled with ammunition headed for the front lines was hit but the shell never exploded. And if that shell would have went off it would have killed hundreds of Israeli soldiers, civilians and also would have destroyed many buildings. Then a day or so later a Rabbi was leading some troops to the western wall of the temple. And this Rabbi seemed to be immune to the gun fire as he was all alone in the front leading the charge. But somehow he never got hit and this really didn’t make any sense because of the amount of gunfire that was being exchanged. And because this Rabbi never got shot by any of these bullets they were able to win that battle. One of the most famous accounts happened when the Israeli forces where heading into enemy territory, and while they were entering into what they thought was going to be a very hostile town the Arabs, their sworn enemy were cheering, clapping their hands, just smiling at the approaching Israeli forces.

And the Israelis were extremely confused wondering what the heck was going on, why were they being so nice. And even the town guards were standing still, they didn’t even fire a single shot. So the Israelis were easily able to take over this heavily armed area. And later on they found out that these civilians these guards thought that they were the Iraqis and once they finally figured out that they were not the Iraqis but their sworn enemy it was already to late because by that time the Israeli forces had already took control of the town. And these type of strange event’s kept happening all throughout the war. And in the end the Jewish people of Israel were not only victorious in 6 days but they also finally took control of all their holy territory which they had been waiting for, for thousands of years.

And journalist and Generals throughout the world stated that no military logic or natural cause could explain this victory. And many saw this as a miracle. Now I do remember hearing in the past about angel or divine beings being seen during the 6 day war. But while making this video I couldn’t find any documented accounts of actual angel sightings. I could only find them before or after the 6 day war such as I described in the beginning of this video. But to me it seems that fear, confusion, and just unbelievable events won this war for the Israelis. Such as the Rabbi not getting shot, shells not exploding, and the Arab forces freezing in terror then becoming paralyzed for no reason. Now whether one believes in God or not something unexplainable whatever it maybe did seem to happened. And whatever this was did appear to be on the side of the Jewish people.

And throughout the centuries there have been other accounts of what many believed to be divine or otherworldly intervention. In 776 the Saxons were attacking the French when all a sudden flaming shields came down from the skies. And the Saxons believed that these flaming shields were protecting the French. And they were terrified by these objects so they retreated and the French were victorious. And I am sure that there are many more of these occurrences throughout our history and I will be sure to cover them as soon as I find them. Now because of these unexplainable, divine like happenings many believe that this is undeniable proof of god, some believe that it’s the work of extraterrestrials. And all I can say is that it does seem that there is something else out there and from time to time and for whatever reason this higher power does reveal itself and it does pick sides.

Until next time this is paranormal junkie. Make sure to hit that subscribe button and stay tuned!

How the Six-Day War Transformed Religion

Fifty years ago this week, the Six-Day War dramatically altered geographic borders and political fortunes in the Middle East. For Israelis, the stunning 1967 victory meant an expanded country that suddenly included East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula for Palestinians, it meant occupation and more displacement for surrounding Arab countries, it meant crushing military and reputational defeat.

But the Six-Day War didn’t only transform Middle East politics: It also transformed religion—in ways that would reverberate far beyond the region. The war’s outcome impacted the way Islam is expressed in the West Bank and Gaza, and it created new openings for political Islamism in the Arab world. It strengthened a messianic strain in Israeli Judaism, and it changed the focal point of American Judaism. It forced an internal reckoning among evangelical Christians, and even among Mormons, in the United States.

I asked writers with expertise and experience in each of these contexts to discuss how 1967 changed religion, broadly interpreted. Religion is often thought of as a force that drives conflict I invited them to think instead about how conflict impacts religion. The six writers’ responses, which I’ve edited and included below, touch on everything from fashion to theology, demonstrating the many ways religion inflects people’s lives.

Fifty years ago, the Six-Day War changed the course of Palestinian history. Also 50 years ago, my mother and father got married in Deir Debwan, a West Bank village on the outskirts of Ramallah. My mom was a recent graduate of Mar Yousef, a girls’ school run by nuns. My dad had been living in America since 1959 and had come back home to marry the girl of his dreams. My Muslim parents wed three months before the Six-Day War.

My mother wore a short cocktail dress to her engagement party. In 1967, it wasn’t odd to see women strolling in miniskirts in Palestine. It also wasn’t odd to see my grandmother standing next to her wearing a floor-length, long-sleeved, cross-stitched dress and a long silky veil covering her hair.

Some say that Palestinians have become more religious than they were when they were first occupied. And in the half-century since the Six-Day War, it’s true that Palestinian religiosity has changed in some ways. The sense that shrines like the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem are under siege has, it seems, strengthened some Palestinians’ religious enthusiasm. Ramadan and Christmas have always been a big deal, but as Palestinians fight for their existence, the festivities have gotten even grander. This is a marker of resistance, a signal that Palestinians refuse to disappear.

Israel occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967, handed over governmental control to the Palestinian Authority in 1993, and removed its soldiers and settlers in 2005. This whole process culminated in the Palestinian Authority calling an election in 2006. Hamas won a parliamentary majority, not because Palestinians wanted a theocracy, but because they were fed up with the corruption of the rival Fatah party. In the decade since its win, Hamas has tried to impose Saudi-like laws on its trapped citizens. What “religious” looks like in Gaza has been severely constrained by Hamas. But Hamas has also met with resistance, and its popularity has declined due to the blockade and the repeated bloodshed Gazans have had to endure on its watch.

In some places, Palestinian religion has not changed at all. To this day, in my parents’ village, different women in the same family will cover up differently. You will see one sister with her hair flowing out in the open and the other choosing to wear hijab. You will also see Muslim men with beards down to their belly buttons and others drinking beer (forbidden in Islam) regardless of the length of their beards.

My three sisters and I do not cover our hair. My sisters-in-law have no other choice. They come from a conservative Muslim family that lives in a refugee camp outside Bethlehem. In their home, the men gave up on God long ago and the women must cover up. To be clear, they would not be harmed if they didn’t, just nagged to death by my mother-in-law. I, on the other hand, roam around the refugee camp in tank tops with no fear. I will not deny that there are Palestinian Muslim women who are forced to cover, but the majority I have met choose to do so.

How Palestinians’ religion gets expressed can be shaped by many factors, including who their family is, where they live, and how much money they make some, including young Palestinians, have suggested a link between the spread of poverty and an intensifying religiosity. Ramallah, a city whose name translates to “City of God,” is basically one big bar. It’s party central for the haves, and the have-nots come to watch. Meanwhile, in cities like Hebron, it’s all about the masjid (mosque). But regardless of their faith and level of religiosity, when it comes to the fight against Israeli occupation, Palestinians stand side by side, hijab or not, halal or not, Santa or not.

One of the principal but often underappreciated effects of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war was its role in setting the stage for the rise of political Islam in the Arab world—including the terrorist extremism that now plagues the region and the globe.

The war was a devastating blow to the credibility of Arab nationalism (particularly as defined by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser), which presented itself as secular and progressive. The speed and scope of the Arab debacle in 1967 knocked the legs out from under the profoundly exaggerated claims of Arab nationalism to be leading the region into a new and brighter future.

By the late 1960s, the social and economic failure of these systems, and their repressive nature, were already readily apparent. Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which all gained independence in the 1940s with relatively robust civil societies and promising economies, were being profoundly mismanaged and intellectually suffocated by these narrow regimes. Underneath dreams of resurgence and glory lay clear patterns of atrophy and decay. But the militarism of Arab nationalism, particularly in Egypt, with its strident anti-Western and anti-Israeli rhetoric, conjured a beguiling mirage that obscured grim realities for large majorities who were cajoled into a collective denial.

The 1967 war called this bluff completely. Most Arabs had been beyond confident in victory, yet the defeat was virtually instantaneous and total. In the aftermath, the political credibility of this version of Arab nationalism was mortally wounded, and its long-term viability was as effectively destroyed as the Egyptian Air Force had been by Israel’s surprise early morning attack on June 5.

As the Lebanese scholar Fawaz Gerges has pointed out, the rise of Islamism as a political force was neither an immediate nor an inevitable consequence of the crisis of Arab nationalism resulting from the 1967 war. Many other factors fed into the rise of an ultraconservative, reactionary, and revolutionary (in the Leninist sense) Islamist movement, its radicalization in the 1970s and 1980s, and its proliferation—including in the form of violent transnational terrorist movements like al-Qaeda and ISIS—since the late 1990s.

Daniel L. Byman

Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy

This shift to international terrorism flowed directly from the profound changes wrought by the 1967 War. Before 1967, many Palestinians assumed they would gain their own state on the backs of Arab armies. Arab states, after all, had warred with Israel in 1948 and 1956, and their leaders promised deliverance for their Arab brothers. The crushing Israeli victory dispelled that illusion and made Arab leaders cautious about confronting Israel, fearing another devastating loss. In addition, the war damaged the prestige of Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and his pan-Arab agenda. Abu Iyad, Arafat’s chief lieutenant who would go on to run the Black September Organization, recalled: “Nasser had surrendered! Who could ever have imagined such a thing?” If the Palestinians were to gain deliverance, they would have to deliver it themselves.

In a major shift, the Six-Day War also gave Israel control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After 1948, roughly one million Palestinians remained in Israel, but they were a leaderless minority. Now Israel ruled over large Palestinian-populated areas, occupying them militarily. Yasser Arafat sought to emulate the successful Algeria revolt, where guerrillas eventually drove out the French after more than 100 years of colonization—a model for many revolutionary movements at the time. Israel, however, quickly suppressed an attempted Palestinian rebellion on the West Bank and, in the years that followed, crushed resistance in Gaza. Abu Iyad later concluded that his own organization’s carelessness and the skill of Israel’s intelligence services was too much.

The Palestinians also continued cross-border attacks, often using bases in Jordan to strike into Israel. At first these attacks and the Israeli response won Palestinian movements like Arafat’s Fatah plaudits among young Arabs, as they appeared to be the only group effectively fighting Israel after the 1967 humiliation. But as Israeli defenses improved, world media paid less and less attention to the low-level back and forth between Israel and the Palestinians. The number of cross-border operations peaked at almost 1,500 in 1968 but plummeted to less than 200 by 1972. Israel also hit Jordan itself hard in order to press the government to crack down on the Palestinian presence. These efforts precipitated a bloody crackdown, which the Palestinians referred to as “Black September,” in which an estimated 2,000 Palestinians died and thousands were expelled by the Jordanian regime, leading to mass influxes to Lebanon, with eventual dire consequences for that country.

1967- Events Leading to the Six Day War - History

The beginning of April 1967 saw Israel ready to resume cultivation of three plots near Kibbutz Ha'on, in the southern demilitarized zone, south of the Sea of Galilee. Although initially planned for April 3rd, bad weather prevented work from beginning on that date and it was delayed until April 7th. Israel, meanwhile, put the IDF on alert, fully aware that deterioration along the border was not unlikely. Tanks, artillery and mortars were moved into positions around the Sea of Galilee, while at various IAF bases aircraft were fuelled and armed for the day's possible combat. Search-and-Rescue helicopters, light observation aircraft and the IAF's command and control structure were put on alert as well, all in anticipation of events on the border.

On the morning of April 7th two Israeli tractors begun their work on the disputed plots, overlooked by Syrian posts on the Golan Heights. The work had received a go-ahead despite continued bad weather, after the IDF had learned that the weather was to clear up later in the day, allowing IAF aircraft to participate in whatever fighting erupted. The day's hostilities begun shortly later when cannon and gun fire opened up on the tractors from the Syrian post at Amrat Az-El-Din. Israeli ground forces returned fire and deterioration was quick to follow, tank and artillery fire erupting as well.

By late morning, Syrian shells begun falling in Kibbutz Tel-Katzir and the IDF Chief-of-Staff, Itzhak Rabin, asked the Israeli government to authorize IAF strikes against 4 Syrian posts along the frontier. The IAF received its orders at 12:14 and quickly launched its aircraft. Yet only when shelling of the Israeli tractors resumed were these permitted to carry out their attacks. Commencing at 13:32, the attack was led by 110th Squadron Vautours, followed by 107th Sqn. Ouragans, 105th Sqn. Super Mysteres, 116th & 109th Sqn. Mysteres and by 117th Sqn. Mirages.

First two MiG kills

The attack was broken off however, when Syrian MiGs were spotted making their way towards the combat zone. The attacking aircraft were therefore pulled back and 101st "First Fighter" Squadron Mirages were vectored in to engage the new arrivals. The day's first two dogfights begun at 13:58 with Captains Iftah Spector & Benyamin Romah engaging a pair of MiG-21s over the Syrian town of Kuneitra. The high-speed approach between the two pairs soon turned into a tight twist and turn dogfight, the Israeli Mirages attempting to close in on the MiGs from behind. Spector was first to achieve this and downed one MiG after maneuvering slightly above his opponent and then sinking in for the kill. Romah however, found himself on a parallel course with the other fighter. Breaking toward the MiG at full throttle and with his afterburner, he managed to cut off his opponent and then approach him from the rear. Already over Damascus and pressured to turn back, Romah only managed a short burst from 400 meters away. This was sufficient for the kill, and the MiG was seen going down, exploding a few seconds later after taking hits from Spector's aircraft as well.

The dogfight had just ended when more Syrian Migs were spotted in the vicinity of the southern demilitarized zone. Kibbutz Ein-Gev on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee soon came under fire, apparently from four MiGs which had overflown the settlement unnoticed by the IAF. A pair of 117th "First Jet" Squadron Mirages flown by Sqn. commander Major Amihay Shmueli and Captain Shlomo Nir, on patrol over the western shore of the lake, were directed eastwards towards the intruders. Contact was made at 14:53 when the two Mirages spotted a lone MiG-21. Nir fired a single Shafrir air-to-air missile but missed completely. Retreating back to Syria by this point, the MiG was shielded by the cloud cover over the Golan Heights and managed to elude the Israeli fighters. It soon became apparent however, that the shells falling in Ein-Gev did not originate from the MiGs but rather from one of the Syrian posts on the Heights. Shells, meanwhile, begun falling on another Israeli settlement, this time Kibbutz Gadot in the central demilitarized zone. Within 15 minutes a new attack plan was formed and the IAF initiated strikes against the posts overlooking Gadot. After an hour long attack that begun at 15:25 the Syrians ceased their shelling of the Kibbutz.

Number Three

By the time the shelling was over, another Syrian MiG had fallen prey to Israeli Mirages, this time from the 119th "Bat" Squadron. At 15:52 a dogfight took place between another pair of MiG-21s and two Mirages flown by Squadron leader Major Ran Peker and Captain Avraham Shalmon. Once again both pilots went after separate foes in dogfights that took them into Syrian territory. Peker's first Shafrir launch was a near miss, the missile's proximity fuse failing to detonate. The MiG pilot, upon spotting the missile, attempted to evade Peker by engaging his afterburner, the effect of which was actually providing Peker's second Shafrir with a near-perfect heat signature of the aircraft's engine. Peker however, in his eagerness, launched the missile out of envelope and the MiG managed to evade the missile. Now it was Peker's turn to engage his afterburner and close in for a cannon kill. A two seconds burst was sufficient to detonate one of the MiG's fuel tanks, turning the aircraft into a ball of fire. Shalmon meanwhile, was chasing the other MiG at full afterburner having jettisoned his underwing fuel tanks. From 1,000 meters away he fired his first Shafrir but the missile failed to hit its target. The second missile proved to be a miss as well, fired from 700 meters away. Shalmon then closed in to within 400 meters before firing his cannons. Although apparently hitting his opponent, he was directed to disengage. While the Mirages were making their way back to Tel-Nof, the stricken MiG made its way back to Syria's Dumayr air base.

The IAF's afternoon strikes ended at 16:16 and only six fighters remained on the scene, a pair from each Mirage squadron: the 101st, 117th & 119th. But while IAF aircraft were making their way back to base, four MiG-21s were taking off from Dumayr and making their way to the front at low altitude. The four MiGs aircraft appeared over the southern Golan Heights at 16:27, taking a route that took them from south to north over the frontier. By this time the two 117th Sqn. Mirages, flown by Major Ezra Dotan and Captain Avraham Lanir had teamed up with the 119th Sqn. aircraft, flown by Majors Mordechai Yeshurun and Oded Sagi, while the 101st Sqn. Mirages, flown by Captains Avner Slapak and Amnon Shamir, were patrolling elsewhere. At 16:30 ground control informed the six pilots of the enemy aircraft in their vicinity. The time of day was ideal for the Israeli pilots, with the afternoon sun at their backs, providing them with excellent visibility while blinding their opponents.

Four, Five & Six

Ezra Dotan was first to spot the MiGs, west of Pik, a Syrian village near the Jordanian-Israeli-Syrian tri-border area. Spotting the Syrian formation's rear guard lagging behind the leading pair, Dotan and Lanir proceeded to take on the rear pair, Dotan taking on the formation's no 3. and Lanir engaging no. 4. An attempt by Dotan to launch one of his Shafrir failed and he was forced to chase his opponent at low altitude through the canyons of the Yarmouch, a tributary of the Jordan River. A burst of cannon fire from 400 meters away failed to hit the MiG and Dotan continued his pursuit to within 250 meters. A long burst from his cannon and the MiG went down, Dotan breaking westward to locate Lanir and the other Mirages. The Syrian pilot managed to parachute to safety, his aircraft crashing in Jordanian territory.
Lanir, meanwhile, was on the heels of his own opponent. Unlike Dotan, Lanir had jettisoned his underwing fuel tanks and had closed the distance between himself and the fleeing MiG-21 to within 200 meters. He had barely pressed the trigger when the MiG disintegrated into a ball of fire. Lanir's first bullets had apparently hit a fuel tank and the MiG had immediately detonated, without affording Lanir a change to break away. Lanir's Mirage flew right through the fireball created by the destroyed MiG, comprising of burning fuel alone by now and not of any debris, much to Lanir's good fortune (see picture below). The Mirage was scorched black however, including the canopy, effectively blinding its pilot. Escorted by Major Yeshurun, leader of the 119th Sqn. pair, Lanir managed to make his way back to Israel. The soot was soon swept away from the canopy and Lanir was able to bring his aircraft to a landing in Ramat-David AFB.

The two 101st Squadron Mirages flown by Slapak and Shamir had flown a separate patrol route from the other aircraft. Leading the pair, Captain Avner Slapak knew of other Mirages in the air but not of their number nor of their location. Upon spotting four unidentified aircraft, Slapak turned to his ground control, inquiring whether any enemy aircraft were known to be in his vicinity. Despite receiving a negative answer, Slapak dismissed the possibility that the aircraft were Mirages and begun to give chase. He tried to inform others of his actions but mistook the right radio frequency and could not get his message across. Soon the four MiGs split into two pairs, the rear pair turning left and the leading pair right. Slapak begun chasing the rear pair, closing within 500 meters of one of the aircraft when he saw another Mirage descend on him from above! breaking away, Slapak went after the other MiG when once again the other Mirage got in his way. Despite his protests on the radio, he saw the other fighter open fire and down the MiG. As it turned out, Slapak had gone in after the same pair Lanir and Dotan had engaged, the interfering Mirage being none other than Dotan's.
Breaking away, Slapak suddenly noticed another MiG closing in on a Mirage, later identified once again as Dotan's. Having gone in after the MiG, Slapak was infuriated to see the other Mirage return to engage the MiG, getting in his way again. Descending lower to avoid a collision, Slapak engaged his afterburner and broke ahead of Dotan. Closing to within 250 meters, he fired his cannons and soon saw a number of small explosions rock the MiG, before a huge explosion totally destroyed the fighter. Turning away to team up with Shamir again, Slapak spotted a parachute descending away from the wreckage, and then the empty MiG crashing into the ground. Of the four MiG-21s, only one managed to make it back to Dumayr, all three others falling inside Jordan.


The IAF had carried out 171 sorties during April 7th 1967, of which 84 were attack sorties and 52 were interception & patrol sorties (the remaining 35 were aircraft that were launched but did not get a chance to participate in the fighting). 17 Syrian targets were attacked, bombs dropped weighing a total of 65 tons. Israeli aircraft fired approximately 700 20mm rounds and 2,900 30mm rounds, 5 Shafrir AAM, one Matra 530 AAM and 93 T-10 rockets. The Syrian air force had carried out 28 MiG-21 sorties and 6 MiG-17 sorties, all patrol and interception sorties except for the four which had overflown Ein-Gev. Beginning at 14:40 the Syrians had also operated four helicopters on Search-and-Rescue missions to locate their downed pilots. Syria admitted the loss of four of its aircraft, three of them having gone down in Jordan while another was destroyed right over Damascus, in view of its public. Yet it claimed the destruction of 5 Israeli fighters and heralded the day as a Syrian victory.

The events of April 7th did nothing to dissipate tensions along the border and both militaries remained on a high state of alert. On May 13th Syria informed Egypt of an Israeli plan to attack Syria and the following day saw the Egyptian military enter a high state of alert as well. Dusk on May 14th saw the beginning of Egyptian troop movements into the Sinai Peninsula. The countdown to the Six Days War had begun.

This account is based on an IAF History branch publication called "The War for the Water"

We have made every effort to give full accreditation and endeavoured to ensure that copyright has been respected. If you feel that your copyright has been infringed by any material here please advise us and we will immediately remove it.


Israeli forces first seized the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula during the Suez Crisis of October–November 1956. Under heavy international pressure, Israeli forces withdrew in March 1957, after heavily mapping the territory and placing secret supply caches in preparation for the next war. As part of the conditions for the Israeli withdrawal, the Sinai Peninsula was demilitarized and the UNEF peacekeeping force was established there to police the border between Israel and Egypt. In May 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered the withdrawal of this force and moved Egypt's own troops into the area. Israel, believing war to be imminent, ultimately launched a preemptive strike against Egypt, beginning the Six-Day War. Within three days, Israel had occupied most of the Sinai Peninsula.

Following the Israeli conquest of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt launched the War of Attrition (1967–1970) aimed at forcing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. The war saw protracted conflict in the Suez Canal Zone, ranging from limited to large scale combat. Israeli shelling of the cities of Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez on the west bank of the canal, led to high civilian casualties (including the virtual destruction of Suez), and contributed to the flight of 700,000 [2] Egyptian internal refugees. Ultimately, the war concluded in 1970 with no change in the front line. [3] On 6 October 1973, Egypt commenced Operation Badr to retake the Sinai Peninsula, while Syria launched a simultaneous operation to retake the Golan Heights, thereby beginning the Yom Kippur War (known in Egypt and much of Europe as the October War). The canal was reopened in 1975, with President Sadat leading the first convoy through the canal aboard an Egyptian destroyer. In 1979, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in which Israel agreed to withdraw from the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula. Israel subsequently withdrew in several stages, ending on 26 April 1982. [4]

Israeli settlements in the Sinai Peninsula were split into two regions: one along the Mediterranean coast, and another along the Gulf of Aqaba. [5] Israel had plans to expand the settlement of Yamit into a city of up to 200,000 residents. [6] The actual population of Yamit never exceeded 3,000. [7] The settlements in the Yamit region were demolished by Israel prior to the withdrawal, but the settlements on the gulf: Ofira (Sharm el-Sheikh), Di Zahav (Dahab), and Neviot (Nuweiba) remained intact, and were further developed by Egypt after the withdrawal.

1967 Palestinian exodus

The 1967 Palestinian exodus refers to the flight of around 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinians [1] out of the territories captured by Israel during and in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, including the demolition of the Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalo, and Bayt Nuba, Surit, Beit Awwa, Beit Mirsem, Shuyukh, Al-Jiftlik, Agarith and Huseirat and the "emptying" of the refugee camps of Aqabat Jaber and ʿEin as-Sultan. [2] Approximately 145,000 of the 1967 Palestinian refugees were refugees from the 1948 Palestine War. [3] By December 1967, 245,000 had fled from the West Bank and Gaza Strip further into Jordan, 11,000 had fled from the Gaza Strip further into Egypt and 116,000 Palestinians and Syrians had fled from the Golan Heights further into Syria. [3]

A United Nations Special Committee heard allegations of the destruction of over 400 Arab villages, but no evidence in corroboration was furnished to the Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the population of the occupied territories. [4]

Until 1967, roughly half of all Palestinians still lived within the boundaries of former Mandatory Palestine, but the majority lived outside the territory from 1967. [3]

A 1971 United Nations report stated that: "On the basis of the testimony placed before it or obtained by it in the course of its investigations, the Special Committee had been led to conclude that the Government of Israel is deliberately carrying out policies aimed at preventing the population of the occupied territories from returning to their homes and forcing those who are in their homes in the occupied territories to leave, either by direct means such as deportation or indirectly by attempts at undermining their morale or through the offer of special inducements, all with the ultimate object of annexing and settling the occupied territories. The Special Committee considers the acts of the Government of Israel in furtherance of these policies to be the most serious violation of human rights that has come to its attention. The evidence shows that this situation has deteriorated since the last mission of the Special Committee in 1970." [5]

After the psychological warfare unit made a visit to Qalqilya and many of the residents had fled, the UN representative Nils-Göran Gussing noted that 850 of the town's 2,000 houses were demolished. [6]

The Six Day War – Day 1

On Monday, the 5th of June 1967, Israel called the bluff of the posturing Arab states at its borders when it launched its air force in the direction of Egypt.

In a coordinated attack of exemplary precision, 16 enemy airfields were struck at 8.45 am local time. According to Israeli intelligence reports, the Egyptian dawn flying patrols would be back at the base, and the fighter planes would be refuelling on the tarmac. The pilots would be in the mess hall enjoying breakfast, and the commanders would be in their cars travelling to work and would, therefore, be incommunicado.

To make matters worse for the Egyptians, the head of their armed forces, Field Marshal Amer, and that of the air force, Sidqi Mahmoud, as well as the generals leading the troops, were all on their way to a parade at Bir Tamada airfield in Sinai.

They were unable to be contacted, and a long way from their command posts.

A further calamitous decision was the order to stand down the Egyptian air defence system. Just in case, by mistake, they locked on to the plane carrying the dignitaries to the parade, the air defences were shut down for the day.

Ranged against this lackadaisical enemy were almost 200 Israeli fighter planes. They would reach their targets at precisely the same time and deliver a knockout blow before the Egyptians knew what had hit them. Then, with complete control of the skies, the ground troops could go in and finish the job.

To a man, the Israelis knew what they were doing. It is difficult to imagine a better prepared, more motivated fighting machine. Each man believed he was fighting for the very existence of his country and wished to secure it for the coming generations.

Ranged against this well-drilled force were 350 Egyptian fighter planes, only half of them serviceable at the time. There were also 64 bombers, but less than half of these were operational on the morning of the attack.

At a quarter-to-nine, Egyptian time, the air assault began. Wave after wave of Israeli planes launched missiles onto the runways to put them out of use and strafed the planes on the ground with automatic fire.

Met with limited resistance, the Israelis could pick off their targets at will. In what must have appeared a shocking echo of the war of 1956, the Egyptian air force was destroyed on the ground before it had an opportunity to scramble.

Meanwhile, the plane carrying Amer and Mahmoud was forced to turn back. The airfield they were heading for had been targeted, and it was too dangerous to attempt to land. The other military air bases had suffered the same fate, and they were forced to head for Cairo International airport, which meant the two senior military personnel were removed from operations for a further hour-and-a-half. Everything was going right for Israel, and going completely wrong for Egypt.

The Field Commander managed to get a message to Egypt’s Jordanian allies to say that Egypt was under attack and they should join the action immediately.

He added the morale-boosting report that 75% of the Israeli planes had been destroyed and that Egyptian land forces were engaging the Israelis in the Sinai Peninsula with success.

Cairo Radio had begun reporting news of the Israeli attack too. Dozens of enemy planes were reported shot down. ‘Israel’s treacherous aggression has been repelled,’ the jubilant announcer cried, ‘and Egypt is now advancing on all fronts and confronting the enemy.’

Across the Arab world, people rushed into the streets in celebration. Someone shouted ‘It is a great day for the Arabs’. It seemed to the uninformed masses that Israel’s day of reckoning had come.

Jordan possessed a modest air force consisting of 24 Hawker Hunter jets. They were slow, yet highly manoeuvrable, and they did pack a punch. Her pilots were also well-trained, and they were up for the battle.

Ihsan Shurdom, a 25-year-old captain in the Jordanian air force, awaited the order to attack. He could see dots on the radar heading into Israel, and his instinct said they were IAF planes returning to base. He wanted to go after them while they were low on fuel and ammunition.

Shurdom’s superiors believed the planes on the radar must be Egyptian. If the radio reports were to be believed, Tel Aviv was about to feel the force of the Arab response. The young captain was refused permission to engage.

A Palestinian Brigade in Gaza had more success, shooting down an Israeli plane, forcing the pilot, Mordechai Livon, to eject over the Mediterranean, where he was picked up and taken to Cairo for questioning.

At 10.20 am, the Middle East News Agency ticker tape reported that 23 Israeli planes had been downed. This figure was revised an hour later to 42. Across the Arab world, people ran out of their houses and danced in the streets.

At ten minutes to twelve, Ihsan Shurdom finally received permission to engage. Sixteen Jordanian planes took off for airfields in Israel. They found just four planes on the ground, which they destroyed. The rest were nowhere to be seen. Shurdom and the others returned to base.

The missing Israeli planes were busy mopping up the Egyptian operation. Field Marshal Amer phoned Fayed airbase personally and asked for a damage report. He was told that all of the Mig-23s had been destroyed. A dozen bombers and three Mig-19s were all that was left.

Six Egyptian Tupolev bombers had been airborne when the attacks occurred and had therefore survived, and they were ordered to make for Luxor airport. Unfortunately, the Israelis intercepted the message and pursued the aircraft to the new location and destroyed them there.

By midday, the Egyptian air force was no more.

In the evening of the first day of fighting, Cairo Radio reported that 82 enemy planes had been shot down. The Israelis did not bother to correct the reports. They did not want the wider world to know how well they were doing.

Israel was making territorial gains and wanted to continue doing so before a cease-fire could be agreed. Israel intended to hold onto her spoils this time, unlike in 1956 when she had been forced to withdraw to the lines held before fighting began.

With the Egyptians grounded, Israel went after Jordan and Syria. Ishan Shurdom and his men downed four enemy Mirage fighter planes but, back at base, their airfield had been destroyed along with their remaining aircraft. Then Shurdom was hit in a dogfight and just managed to escape to an alternate airport.

In just one day, Israel had destroyed the aerial forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. According to Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, the losses amounted to 374 Arab planes: 286 Egyptian, 52 Syrian, 27 Jordanian, and 9 Iraqi aircraft. This had been achieved at a cost to themselves of 19 IAF planes and 9 pilots. Israel had lost ten percent of its air force, but it had gained supremacy of the skies and aerial cover for her ground forces.

Sixteen Egyptian airfields were put out of action in the first wave of Israeli attacks. Two more, Cairo and El Mansour, were hit in the second phase when it was found that fighter planes were being housed there. El Arish airport escaped unscathed, being deliberately left alone to be used later as a forward base for the Israelis.

It had been a stunning victory – efficient and ruthless – and a vindication of the military’s confidence. It was a rout, no matter what Cairo Radio said.

Down on the ground, progress had also been made, albeit more slowly. The army was ranged in three separate positions with individual missions. One group was led by Brigadier-General Ariel Sharon, another by Brigadier-General Avraham Yoffe, and a further division was under the command of Brigadier-General Israel Tal.

Before embarking on the operation, Tal had informed his officers that ‘This is a fight, if necessary, to the death. Each man will charge forward to the very end, irrespective of the cost in casualties. There will be no halt and no retreat. The fate of your country depends on it.’

The fighting would be, at times, hand to hand. Corporal Rafael Eitan and his 202nd Paratrooper Brigade were in the thick of it near Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip.

‘We fought for our lives,’ Eitan said later. ‘I fired my Uzi non-stop.’

The Israelis met stiff resistance, but the Arabs lacked leadership, and it was only the bravery of individual troops and divisions that stood in the way of the superior Jewish forces.

Artillery rained down on Egyptian positions throughout the night. Better trained and better equipped, and able to call in air support when needed, the Israelis were in pole position as they fought their way across the Sinai desert.

In the push towards Suez, by land and air, Israel made great inroads. It was one of the most comprehensive victories of any war ever fought. And that was the first day.


The Israeli attack at Abu-Ageila was part of the Israeli offensive into the Sinai Desert. Southern Command's offensive consisted of three divisions: Israel Tal's 84th Division, Avraham Yoffe's 31st Division, and Ariel Sharon's 38th Division. Sharon was tasked with the capture of the road junction at Abu-Ageila, in order to gain access to the central route into the Sinai Desert. The Egyptians had taken considerable preparations to prevent a breach there. Egyptian defences had focused on the Um-Katef (or Umm-Qatef) plateau to the east of Abu-Ageila, roughly 25 kilometers (16 mi) from the Israeli border. The defences were an important part of the overall defence plan, called Qahir, in the preparations for the expected war, later known as the Six-Day War.

Israeli troops numbered about 14,000. Egyptian troop strengths have been estimated at 8,000. [1] More importantly, the Israelis had significant advantage in armour: Against 66 Egyptian World War II-era Soviet T34/85 with 85 mm guns and 22 SU-100 with 100 mm guns, the Israeli forces fielded a total of 150 modern tanks: light AMX-13s with 75 mm guns, as well as a hundred British Centurion and both M-50 and M-51 Sherman tanks, considerably upgraded from their WWII vintage and armed with French 75 mm and 105 mm tank guns. [1] The guns used by the Centurions here were the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 tank guns, specifically designed to defeat the Soviet T-54 (much more modern than both types of tanks used by the Egyptians in this battle). On the other side, the best tank gun available for the Egyptians was the 100 mm cannon used by the 22 SU-100 tank destroyers (a late-WWII artillery piece overmatched by Centurion's frontal armor, although it posed a threat to AMX-13s). As a result, in addition to the IDF's numerical superiority, the Israeli tanks also had a greater effective range and firepower than their Egyptian opponents.

Israeli forces Edit

    • Divisional Mechanised Reconnaissance Battalion
    • 14th Armored Brigade (with Super Sherman tanks)
    • 63rd armored battalion (with Centurion tanks)
    • 80th Paratroopers Brigade
    • 6 artillery battalions (105 mm & 155 mm Howitzers)
    • Divisional engineering battalion
    • Force A-B, improvised brigade-size battle group

    Egyptian forces Edit

      • 12th Infantry Brigade
        • 37th, 38th, 39th Infantry Battalions
        • 330th, 332nd, 334th Artillery Battalions

        The Egyptian defence was constructed as follows: the 2nd infantry Division prepared defenses in the area between Abu-Ageila and Kusseima, with the center placed at the area Um-Katef Plateau – Ruafa Dam, with the 12th Infantry Brigade defending Um-Katef and the 10th Infantry Brigade Kusseima. Um-Katef made a good position, because it was bordered by an area of sand dunes to the north and rocky mountains to the south. On this plateau, the Egyptians constructed three parallel trenches of about five kilometers each, reinforced by concrete bunkers. Every trench was defended by an infantry battalion, with the forward trench reinforced by a dug-in tank squadron. To the rear were two supporting artillery battalions (330th, 334th), behind them the balance of 288th Tank Battalion ready to counterattack. To the north, blocking the Batur Track at Position 181, were 38th Infantry Battalion, 299th Artillery Battalion and an antitank company of ten SU-100. They were to protect the flank of the main position to the southeast.

        Five kilometers to the west of the Um-Katef Plateau perimeter was the Ruafa Dam. Dug in here were the 352nd Infantry Battalion, and the 332nd and 336th Artillery Battalions. Five kilometers to the northwest of Abu-Ageila, at the well and logistic center at Awlad Ali, the balance of the 6th Tank Regiment (one tank battalion) was positioned to block enemy forces coming from the northeast or against the positions of the 12th Brigade to the east or southeast.

        To the east in front of the 12th Brigade positions on the ridge at Umm Tarafa was an outpost manned by an infantry company of 38th Battalion, a squadron of tanks from 288th Battalion, and two B-10 recoilless guns. At Position 239, south of Umm Tafara was a platoon of 37th Infantry Battalion, with two B-10 recoilless guns and two antitank weapons. Further east at Tarat Umm Basis near the Israeli border was the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, which was to give warning of any Israeli attack.

        The Israeli attack plan was based on intelligence gathered two days before the war started, which indicated Um-Katef was defended by only one infantry battalion. Based on this information, the Israelis planned a frontal attack by their reinforced independent tank battalion. After aerial bombardments, this tank battalion started its attack on Um-Katef on the 5 June at 08:15. The attack came to a halt however, due to resistance from an unknown Egyptian formation and an unknown minefield, causing the loss of seven Israeli Centurions. New orders for the independent tank battalion were to break off the attack and to attack from the north, through the sand dunes. Now the 14th armoured brigade (two tank battalions Super Shermans and two armoured infantry battalions in halftracks) was ordered to attack frontally further south. After a short aerial bombardment, this attack commenced at 12:30, but was forced to a halt as well.

        Now that strength and positions of the Egyptians were known, General Sharon changed his plans. The independent tank battalion was ordered to drive through the sand dunes following a camel-path and attack the Egyptian armour at the Ruafa Dam. At the same time, the 14th armoured brigade would attack from the East. However, before this could happen, Um-Katef would have to be taken, a task given to Sharon's infantry brigade, held in reserve up till then. This infantry attack was to occur under the cover of darkness, following a secondary approach to Um-Katef through the sand dunes. Meanwhile, the Israeli armour would provide support and all Israeli artillery would be used in support of this attack. This meant there would be no suppressing fire on the Egyptian artillery, making the Israeli infantry extremely vulnerable. It was decided that the Egyptian artillery would be taken out of action prior to the attack using the brigade of paratroopers. However, with only six helicopters available, only a limited number of units could be used. Meanwhile, the independent tank battalion was engaged by the Egyptian defenders in the sand dunes by 16:00 and were able to continue to their positions near Abu-Ageila and the Ruafa Dam at 18:00. The infantry brigade was in place at around 23:00, while the paratroopers, after being discovered and fired upon by Egyptian artillery, made it to their attack positions at 23:00.

        The attack started on 5 June, at 00:00 hours, after the Israeli artillery had been firing from 23:30–00:00 hours with Israeli tanks moving into position under the noise of the artillery. After heavy fighting, the Israeli infantry battalions broke through the trenches at Um-Katef, with one-third of them cleared by 02:30. Now the engineers started clearing a way through the minefield which was completed at 04:00, allowing the 14th armoured brigade to roll on to the Ruafa Dam. On 6 June at 07:00, the Israelis attacked the Egyptian tank battalions and antitank battalions from two sides, with the Centurion tanks of the 14th from the east and the Super Sherman tanks from the west. After three hours of fighting, these Egyptian units were destroyed, after which remnants of the 12th Egyptian Brigade were cleared. At around 12:00, the road junction at Abu-Ageila was in Israeli hands and the road to the Sinai was open. The battle ended with 40 KIA and 19 tanks lost for the Israelis, [4] and 2,000 killed and 60 tanks lost on the Egyptian side.

        The victory at Abu-Ageila meant the road to the Central Sinai was open for the Israelis in general, Sharon and his forces in particular. Many of the Egyptian units remained intact and could have tried to prevent the Israelis from reaching the Suez Canal. However, when the Egyptian Minister of Defense, Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer heard about the fall of Abu-Ageila, he panicked and ordered all units in the Sinai to retreat to the west bank of the Suez canal within a single day. There was no plan for the retreat, so the units left behind heavy equipment, and sometimes even outpaced their commanders. This resulted in the Israelis racing to capture abandoned sites, and obtaining significant amounts of abandoned tanks and equipment. So much was captured intact that after the war three mechanized and two armored brigades were created from this abandoned equipment. [ citation needed ] The withdrawal order effectively meant the defeat of Egypt. By 8 June, most of the Sinai area had been occupied by Israeli forces.

        1967- Events Leading to the Six Day War - History

        Yossi Klein Halevi is the author of the acclaimed book Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation. In this in-depth interview with Fathom Deputy Editor Calev Ben-Dor, Halevi argues that the Six-Day War in 1967 signalled the beginning of the end of one utopian movement, the Kibbutz, and the beginning of another, focused on settlements. Ranging over the transformations Israeli society has undergone in the last 50 years, Halevi claims that it is an increasingly post-utopian society and that at its heart is an ‘Israeli Centre’ that is unpersuaded by either the vision of the ‘Greater Land of Israel’ nor of ‘Peace Now’.

        1967 MEMORIES

        Calev Ben-Dor: Can you share some memories from the period surrounding the 1967 Six-Day War?

        Yossi Klein Halevi: My most primal memory was in the latter part of May 1967, watching the news with my father, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary who constantly carried that experience with him. We saw crowds of demonstrators chanting ‘death to Israel’ and waving banners imprinted with skulls and cross-bones, which, as a 14-year-old boy, made a very deep impression on me. Both my father and I had this same dread that some version of the Holocaust was about to re-occur. And that feeling was repeated across the Jewish world, from Moscow to Tel Aviv.

        I recall four shocks. The first shock of that time was that merely two decades after the Holocaust those genocidal impulses, reflected by the demonstrators, hadn’t been exhausted. The second shock was the reaction of the world. I remember my father saying to me not to worry because France – with whom Israel had a very active military relationship – was on our side. Yet the French subsequently turned against Israel. The third shock was the UN. Nasser ordered the UN peacekeeping forces out of the Sinai Peninsula and they simply complied – without any UN Security Council meeting or debate. Those peacekeeping forces had been placed in the Peninsula after the Suez War in 1956, and their withdrawal created a situation in which Israel suddenly found itself facing the Egyptian army. The fourth shock was the US. While this was a period before the American-Israeli strategic relationship had evolved – Israel was not considered a strategic ally to America until after the Six-Day War when it had proven its military value – President Dwight Eisenhower had given David Ben-Gurion an explicit promise after the Suez War that if Egypt once again tried to shut the Straits of Tiran (Israel’s southern shipping route to the East) the US would organise an international flotilla to break the siege. Yet in 1967 when Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban went to see President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was a deeply sympathetic president to Israel, Johnson explained that due to his commitments in Vietnam he was unable to open a second front and so left Eban empty handed.

        These shocks of May 1967 were followed by the victory in June 1967. So there was an emotional trajectory: from relief when we realised that Israel was not going to be destroyed, to joy and pride at the defeat of our enemies, and finally ecstasy – even a kind of religious ecstasy for many Jews – at the reversal: from destruction to redemption. It was a re-enactment similar to the festival of Purim – the reversal of a genocidal threat and Haman hanging on the gallows that were intended for Mordechai. The euphoria was a combination of realising we had just witnessed the greatest military victory in Jewish history, as well as the restoration of those parts of the land of our past that had been denied to us. Before the Six-Day War Israel didn’t possess a single significant Jewish holy site. In some way, the state had been emptied of its religious content, of its soul. After the war we experienced the return to the Western Wall, to the tombs of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs in Hebron and to Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem as a restoration of everything that had been taken from us. My parents’ generation had no access to their ancestral graves – either because they were forced to leave them behind (in the case of Jews from the Arab world) or because they didn’t even exist (in the case of many Holocaust survivors). So to return to the ancestral graves of the first Jews was some kind of compensation for everything which had been denied for generations.

        I remember powerful but conflicting emotions converging. Not only sitting with my father in anguish about the possibility of another Holocaust, but also standing with my father at the Western Wall and seeing him become a religious Jew again. After the Second World War he had stopped praying, yet after the Six-Day War he felt he could forgive God, which reflects a very Jewish way of navigating one’s relationship with God. My father never stopped believing in God but didn’t think He deserved the prayers of the Jewish people. Yet at the Western Wall my father made his peace with God, and became a devout Jew. What happened to my father also played out in the Jewish people. And I think 1967 becomes the moment when many Jews feel they can once again speak about God without too much irony. The war becomes the counterbalance to the Holocaust. While it doesn’t negate it, it creates an additional emotional pillar – despair and fulfilment – of Jewish being. And both happen to the same people in the same generation, which creates the grounds for a manic-depressive contemporary Jewish personality.

        CB-D: In your book Like Dreamers you describe your aim as creating a narrative history of the post-1967 left-right schism, told through the lives of a group of paratroopers. You also refer to the conflicting certainties in Israeli society that divided those who saw the results of 1967 as a blessing from those who saw them as a curse. How would you define the schism? Are there specific events that caused it?

        YKH: There are Jews whose primary memory of that time is our vulnerability and loneliness before the war (May 1967), which often leads people to a hawkish mindset. They believe that there is no one to depend on but ourselves and it’s only when the Jews prove we are powerful that the world pays attention to us. There are also those who emphasise the great military victory (June 1967). They no longer see Israel as being vulnerable but rather as the military power in the Middle East, and believe the country can afford to take risks for peace.

        Personally speaking, I am both a May 1967 and a June 1967 Jew. In fact, these dates ‘argue’ inside of me constantly. Similar to how my father would go back and forth between the Holocaust and the Six-Day War, I feel myself going back between May 1967 and June 1967.


        CB-D: You argue that more than merely a story about a right-left divide there is a story about the fate of Israel’s competing utopian dreams, and how the Israel symbolised by the Kibbutz became the Land of Israel symbolised by settlement. How would you describe that story? And how have both the Kibbutz movement and settlement movement changed and evolved since 1967?

        YKH: A couple of years into my writing I realised this book was not just about Left and Right in the paratrooper brigade that fought in Jerusalem, but was a deeper story of the meeting between religious Zionists, who would become leaders of the settler movement, and Kibbutzniks within one brigade at the most charged, mythic moment in Israel’s history. In retrospect I see this meeting as some kind of changing of the guard. It was not clear at the time because the Kibbutz movement was still vital, the symbol of Israel around the world, and it still possessed this very strong ideological sense of its mission to create an egalitarian Israel, and the religious Zionists had not yet coalesced into the settlement movement, which of course happened after the Six-Day War.

        Both the kibbutz movement and the early settlement movement were utopian movements in the sense that they believed the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel was not only an earth-shattering event for the Jewish people, but would also transform humanity.

        In its early years, the kibbutz movement imagined that Israel would be a laboratory for a new radical egalitarianism, a place where democratic communism would happen on a mass scale. The settlement movement believed the return of the Jews home would be the trigger for the messianic era. Neither movement wanted an Israel like all the nations but something more.

        In that sense, two camps existed in Israeli society but not the ones we tend to think of. Rather than religious vs. secular or left vs. right, these camps were ‘normalisers’ and the ‘exceptionalists’.


        CB-D: If both the Kibbutz movement and the settlement movement were ‘exceptionalists’ why did the former decline and the latter become more powerful?

        YKH: In retrospect the 1967 victory opened up an ideological confusion and demoralisation in the Kibbutz movement, and simultaneously energised religious Zionism with ideological certainty. The Marxist wing of the Kibbutz movement had to some extent already gone through a crisis with the exposure of Joseph Stalin’s crimes by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, which led most Kibbutzniks to re-examine the pro-Stalin orientation within the Marxist wing of the movement. But the general pro-Soviet (as opposed to pro-Stalin) orientation of the Marxist wing remained until 1967, when young kibbutzniks returned home from the front and told their parents that their romance with the Soviet Union – which armed the Arab states and in many ways initiated the war – was over.

        The war broke the Marxist, pro-Soviet certainty within parts of the Kibbutz movement. People I spoke to while researching the book compared this to ‘a shattering of faith’. Added to this was the initial sense of confusion over Israel becoming an occupier of another people. Kibbutzniks could not understand how they, the children of the utopian dream, raised and imbued with egalitarian fervour, could now be occupiers.

        A different process was underway among the religious Zionists, many of whom had grown up feeling as if they were second-rate Israelis. While most of Israel’s national heroes were secular Kibbutzniks, religious Zionists were not the front rank of pioneers or fighters in the army. Yet following the war, young religious people who had fought as paratroopers in the battle for Jerusalem came out of that experience empowered with ideological fervour and certainty.

        This meeting of certainty and confusion is best demonstrated during an evening in Jerusalem a couple of months after the war. Several kibbutzniks were in the process of putting together a book called the Seventh Day, which comprised interviews with soldiers from the Kibbutz movement in order to help them unpack their emotions. The editors saw the religious Zionists as moral partners and so they sought out religious Zionist soldiers with the aim of including them in the interviews. The kibbutzniks discuss what they refer to as the anguish of occupation and their ambivalence towards having to kill for the first time – one young kibbutznik described how he felt guilty for shooting Egyptian soldiers. Yet, not only did the religious Zionist soldiers possess no guilt, but they spoke a completely different language. One of them was appalled at his fellow fighter’s ambivalence. ‘But you’re a soldier of the IDF… you’re defending the people of Israel against those who came to destroy us after the Holocaust.’ Another kibbutznik replied, ‘What about the Jewish value of saving life, what about the Jewish value of honouring life?’ and the religious Zionist responded, ‘I honour human life, but not that of my enemies who want to destroy my people’. The two sides had a complete breakdown in communication. They were speaking from two opposing sensibilities.

        Ironically, it was the secular kibbutzniks – who initially believed the goal of Zionism was to create a normal nation to de-mythologise the concept of the chosen people – who in effect were demanding Israel act like a chosen nation and care more for human life, even in war. And it was the religious youth – imbued with the idea of chosen-ness – who were advocating for a normalised Israel that would respond towards its enemies in the way that any other country would act. Part of the disconnect being played out in these discussions constituted the moment that coalesced the beginning of the decline of ideological certainty among the kibbutzniks, and the beginning of ideological fervour among the religious Zionists.


        CB-D: The settlement movement, which you describe as being imbued with ideological certainty following 1967, has also evolved in recent years, perhaps most notably in light of the disengagement from Gaza in 2005. How would you describe the process it has undergone?

        YKH: The war in 1967 represented a kind of culmination for many religious Jews (a similar moment of culmination for the peace movement occurred when Egyptian President Sadat came to Jerusalem in 1977). While for the religious Zionists the establishment of the state in 1948 signified ‘the beginning of the flowering of our redemption,’ 1967 was perceived as demonstrating that the beginning of flowering had become a full blossom, and many believed there was a need to respond to the moment. On the Right there was a sudden surge of restlessness and urgency. The settlement movement was born in 1967, but didn’t really take off as a formal movement until after the Yom Kippur War when the Labour government loses much of its aura and credibility and religious Zionists succeed in stepping into the breach and replacing the secular pioneers as the new avant-garde. The movement was aided by the backlash in Israeli society following the 1975 UN General Assembly vote equating Zionism with Racism. I came across op-eds in the Hebrew press from that time arguing that while they hadn’t supported settlements, perhaps the world needed to hear a clear Zionist response to the resolution. The settlement movement successfully stepped in at this moment of Israeli anger and despair towards the international community and galvanised those emotions. The settling of Sebastia in Samaria in December 1975 becomes the moment when the settlement movement becomes a permanent part of the Israeli landscape.

        In one sense, the settlement movement is today more successful than its founders could ever have imagined. There are over four hundred thousand Israelis living in the West Bank and that’s excluding East Jerusalem. On the other hand, the movement has ideologically shifted from the boundless optimism of its messianic origins into a kind of a grim, even apocalyptic sensibility. Today’s leadership primarily focuses on averting a possible withdrawal which would leave Israel vulnerable to the point of not being able to adequately defend itself as opposed to the early settlement movement, which possessed a feeling of transformation and saw itself as replacing the Kibbutz movement. Yet the settlement movement started to lose its utopian character – its messianic certainties – with Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 and certainly by the withdrawal from Gaza, which in some ways was the final blow. That’s not to say that there aren’t currently pockets of messianic fervour among the settlers. But as a movement the settlers are far more focused on averting catastrophe than on bringing the messiah. Of course they had lots of help from the Palestinian leadership and from the Second Intifada, which created a sense of despair among Israelis. Yet ultimately, because a ‘normalising sensibility’ has prevailed in the settlement movement, it has lost its messianic edge in the same way that the kibbutz movement did.


        CB-D: In your book you argue that each new utopian dream – socialist perfection, the wholeness of the land, normalising the Jews as a nation among the nations – successively faltered. Do you believe that utopianism died because it came up against the harshness of reality?

        YKH: The utopian daring within Zionism resonated deeply with me even though my own biography is very different. I grew up in Brooklyn as a much-traumatised, post-Holocaust child of survivors and gravitated to Beitar, the right-wing movement of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin which I joined when I was 13. At summer camp we were taught how to shoot because the ‘Nazis were coming’. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to cherish the utopian instinct within Zionism, the notion that Israel needs to stand for more than its own survival, regardless of whether one agrees with the political consequences of our utopian movements. But utopian dreams are now gone to a large extent – both in the kibbutz movement, and in the settlement movement.

        At the same time, I think we paid a very high price for the messianic fantasies of the Jews. It took us into all kinds of dead-ends, and now we are living in a post-utopian Israel. The kibbutz movement faltered because economically it was unsustainable, while the settlement movement lost its messianic fervour because it is absurd to turn the agonising situation in the territories into a messianic celebration. The Jewish people, even many Jews who support settlements, just don’t buy it – that’s not what redemption was supposed to look like. So these messianic utopian fantasies were not sustainable.

        The kibbutzniks and settlers made the same mistake. They both tried to impose a utopian vision on political realities. And utopianism and politics are opposing sensibilities. Utopianism is imagining the world as it could (perhaps should) be, and politics is dealing with the world as it is. Politics is inherently limiting – it can’t contain the expansiveness of the utopian vision which belongs in one’s spiritual life. And when that vision is transferred into politics or economics it inevitably fails and creates disappointment (or worse). In fact, the 20th century is in large part the story of the disasters brought by utopian movements.

        This is the first time in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel where there is no utopian avant-garde leading the way. For the formative period of Zionism and the early years of the state we had the kibbutz movement. From the 1970s and 1980s we had the settlement movement. Now the reality of a normalised society – as normal as Israel could ever be – seems to be the prevailing sentiment.


        CB-D: You have said that the heroes of the book are those who constantly test their ideological premises against reality and who have the courage to concede the limitations of their ideas and subsequently pay a price. What you seem to be describing is an ongoing conversation between ideology and vision on the one hand, and a changing reality on the other. The book ends in 2004 and ‘reality’ has subsequently changed again, and in ways that significantly challenge both the settlement movement and the peace movement – disengagement from Gaza, two failed peace processes (Annapolis and Kerry), Hamas taking over Gaza etc. How do you think Israeli society has changed since the book’s publication?

        YKH: Let me try to answer by taking a step back. Just as the First Intifada in the 1980s convinced the majority of Israelis that the settlement movement would not bring security, the Second Intifada in 2000 convinced the majority of Israelis that the peace process would not bring peace. The public concluded that both ‘Greater Israel’ and ‘Peace Now’ were different kinds of illusions, utopianism in political form. This realisation brought Ariel Sharon to power in 2002, and his evolution from the father of the settlement movement to the man who uprooted the settlements in Gaza is one of the extraordinary political transformations in Israel’s history.

        The centrist camp established by Sharon emphasises two things. The first is that the occupation is a disaster for Israel. The second is that Israel can’t end the occupation through negotiations, because it lacks a credible Palestinian peace partner. The centrist camp is left-wing in its willingness to give up territory and is right-wing in its belief that peace with the Palestinian national movement is currently impossible. Sharon embodied that sensibility and implemented unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. This withdrawal was not about making peace but about acting in the absence of peace. Sharon correctly read the Israeli public mood and understood that it withdrew from Gaza emotionally many years before in the First Intifada, something I identified when I served as a reservist in Gaza during that time. Those positions became the next stage in the evolution of the Israeli majority thinking – centrist unilateralism. As Arik Achmon, one of the paratroopers in the book says: ’We have to separate ending the occupation from peace.’

        However, centralist unilateralism was challenged by the wave of rocket attacks against Israeli communities bordering Gaza and during the Second Lebanon War – which many blamed on Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon six years prior. These attacks substantiated all the warnings of the right-wing that territorial withdrawals would make Israel more vulnerable.

        The Israeli public therefore concluded that it tried the settlement movement to bring security but that failed during the First Intifada it tried the peace process which failed during the Second Intifada and it tried unilateralism that ended with tens of thousands of rockets on Israeli communities. The successive failure of Israel’s various ideological approaches to trying to deal with the Palestinian issue – right, left and centre – led the public to decide the best option was simply not do anything for the time being – the status quo became the default position for a majority of Israelis. Yet what happened with the recent wave of knifings is that Israelis realise there is no such thing as a status quo. You can’t freeze this situation – it’s too dynamic, too volatile. So the status quo doesn’t work either, and most Israelis today don’t have a clue of what to do. I think this helps explain Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extraordinary longevity because he embodies this Israeli sensibility that says yes to a two-state solution in principle but no to actual implementation.

        CB-D: You write about the unravelling of the Israeli consensus, and describe your aim in writing Like Dreamers as the reclamation of the optimism on which Israel had been built. What did you discover?

        YKH: In some ways I think that Israel is more united today than it was in the past, and in other ways less united. Where we are less united is over democracy. In the past there was broad consensus that there are two central pillars of our identity – that Israel is a Jewish majority state and a democratic state. Yet today there is a growing number of Israeli Jews who are questioning Israel’s dual identity as a Jewish democratic state. If there is any divide that has the potential to break Israeli society it is the divide over democracy because for Liberal Zionists the democratic component of Israel is a red line. What worries me about the future of Israel is this widening gap between those who see democracy as essential to Israel’s makeup as its Jewishness, and those who increasingly view democracy as expedient or even see democratic norms as a threat to Israel’s ability to defend itself in the Middle East.

        At the same time we are more united in our ability to come together during military conflict. When I moved to Israel in the summer of 1982, the country was in the beginning of (what we now call) the First Lebanon War. Israelis were literally shouting at each other on street corners using words like ‘warmonger’ and ‘traitor’ and there were mass demonstrations against the war. This was the first time that Israelis had not only failed to unite around a war but were divided by it. That has completely changed. Every conflict that we have been involved in since the year 2000 – when the Second Intifada of suicide bombings began – has been defined by massive reserve soldier turnout. We get 110 per cent mobilisation – people arrive at their units even if they haven’t been called up. And these are wars that are extremely unpopular abroad – Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and our repeated conflicts with Hamas in 2008-9, 2011 and 2014.

        Israeli society is not one that ‘falls into line’. We argue about everything. So where does this vast disparity of perception come from – where the international community think our wars constitute war crimes whereas Israeli society unites? Why in London are there tens of thousands of people marching against an Israeli attack in Gaza, and in Israel the streets are empty? I think that’s an indication of what we have regained, which is a sense of what we used to call in this country ‘wars of no choice,’ the feeling that we have to pull together and defend ourselves because we are facing an enemy that isn’t interested in compromise. By force of circumstance we’ve regained a measure of cohesion – at least during war time – which I as an immigrant from 1982 don’t take for granted.

        I also identify a transformation in secular-religious tensions. To some extent the ‘secular/religious’ divide has been replaced by an ‘ultra-orthodox/everyone else’ divide. In the ‘everyone else’ camp there are moderate Orthodox religious Zionists, traditionalists and secularists. It’s a broad generalisation but among the secular there is a growing interest in tradition, as well as a growing movement among religious Zionists to view themselves as closer to the Israeli mainstream. We saw this during the previous government when Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett joined together to keep the ultra-orthodox parties out of the coalition. It was short lived but I think it was an historic moment that will play itself out again in the future.

        The unity I see emerging offers the basis for a deeper unity than in the past. The unity of May-June 1967 was necessarily fleeting. It was so intense that it could not possibly be sustained. Now I see the grounds for a deeper, more sober unity.

        CB-D: The unity of a post-utopian reality?

        YKH: The unity that comes after the shattering: One that recognises and respects the radical diversity of Israeli society, that doesn’t try to impose a notion of proper Israeli-ness, which had been the kibbutz movement to some extent. Today I see an Israeli society that is chastened, more humble, and that possesses an ability to speak to itself in more reflective and respectful tones. I know that is not the perception abroad but that’s the reality I more or less live.

        Watch the video: Six-Day War 1967 - Third ArabIsraeli War DOCUMENTARY (September 2022).


  1. Zulkigul

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  2. Niru

    Sorry to interfere, I would also like to express my opinion.

  3. Christoffer

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  4. Pajackok

    Wise objects, says)

  5. Tiridates

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  6. Kagazuru

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  7. Gwri

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