I was only three months old at the time, but at least I can say a miracle occurred in my lifetime! Forty-six years ago, between June 5-10, 1967, Israel won a decisive land war which became known as The Six Day War. Against all odds, Israel defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria despite being outnumbered and outgunned. In the course of the war, the divided city of Jerusalem which had a row of barbed wire separating the east from the west side of the city, was re-united under Jewish sovereignty. The paratroopers who redeemed the Western Wall and the Temple Mount famously and excitedly declared, “The Temple Mount is in our hands! The Temple Mount is in our hands!” Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Goren, sounded the shofar (ram’s horn) and recited the memorial prayer at the Western Wall for the soldiers who had given their lives in the war effort. It was a miracle unfolding in front of the eyes of the world. We had come home to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
There is a lot to write about when it comes to the Six Day War. I will leave the facts of the war to someone else and instead try to bring you into a world perspective that you may be unfamiliar with.
The Six Day War must be put into context. For that, we must go back nearly 2000 years in history when we, the Jewish people, were forcibly exiled from our homeland. The Temple, the crown jewel of Jerusalem, was destroyed thus ending the more than four hundred year period that the Temple stood and began a long exile that in small measure came to an end in 1948 with the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
Throughout the long exile the concept of the “wandering Jew” became the standard in the world. There is not a single country in Europe that Jews were not forcibly cast out of. Interestingly, when Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice and introduced the Jewish character Shylock, Jews had not been living in England for nearly three hundred years! It is likely that Shakespeare had never met an actual Jew in person yet he created a stereotypical, anti-Semitic caricature of a Jew in his tale.
While away from our homeland and bouncing from country to country, we suffered harsh treatment at the hands of many. While the specifics are too numerous to elaborate upon, we experienced physical attacks, murder, religious persecution, forced conversions, ghettoization, demonization--- all culminating in the murder of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazi’s in World War II.
Can you imagine the impact that the exile had on the Jewish people? One result was that Jews in public hid their religion. It was not safe to walk the streets openly as a Jew, to identify oneself by wearing a yarmulke (skull cap) or any other Jewish item could put you at risk. Throughout the two thousand year exile it was good policy to lay low and try to go unnoticed. This was even true of the United States. Many Jews while walking the streets would wear a cap to cover their yarmulke.
All of that changed after the Six Day War with the stunning, dramatic victory by the Israel Defense Forces over the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The world was in shock. With the boasts of the Arab world that they would “drive the Jews in to the sea” Israel and the worldwide Jewish population had prepared for the worst. Graves were dug in parks in expectation of mass casualties. Phrases like “another Holocaust” were being thrown around. The situation was beyond tense. Yet all of that ended in six short days with Israel nearly tripling the size of her territory by driving Syria off of the Golan Heights, the Jordanians from Judaea and Samaria, and Egypt from the Sinai. Jerusalem was once again united under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in nearly two thousand years. It was an open miracle, no question.
Suddenly Jews in NY and the world over walked with their heads high and yarmulkes showing. They identified publicly as Jews and were proud to be connected to the State of Israel who had gained the world’s respect as the David who defeated Goliath.
So the Six Day War was far greater than another battle in the Arab-Israel conflict. It was a miraculous restoration of an ancient city and revival of the spirit of an ancient people. We have not looked back since and continue to stand tall and proud as we live the miracle that the Prophets had predicted so many years ago of the Jewish return. While things are not yet perfect as we are still awaiting the final redemption, we are home.
It has a nice ring to it. Home. This time we are not going anywhere.