The 40th Anniversary of Jewish Rebirth

1967 was quite a different time.

Daryl Temkin,

Daryl Temkin
Daryl Temkin
Arutz 7
In Israel, events are marked by their Hebrew calendar date, and this year, the anniversary of the Six Day War comes out on May 15th, one day following the historic May 14th, 1948, date of Israel's creation. This is significant because in the Arab world and for Arab student organizations on university campuses across America, May 15th is commemorated as the "Catastrophe Day". At many universities, there will be a week-long series of fiery anti-Israel speeches, along with heated anti-Israel marches and vulgarity-screaming anti-Israel demonstrations.
The world had gone to bed envisioning that by the next morning Israel would have been wiped off the face of the map.

In contrast, in Jerusalem, the celebration of Jerusalem Day marking the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem is commemorated by one of the most beautiful and moving ceremonies one can imagine. The main streets of Jerusalem's center city are closed to traffic. Tens of thousands of young and old fill the streets briskly waving hundreds of full-size Israeli flags, and musicians are posed every few blocks with loudspeakers, filling the air with their songs. As the musicians play popular Jewish melodies, the streets become a dance stage for well-choreographed circle dances and line dances - each song with its own special dance steps. The joyous group singing on the street and the intense community dancing is a unique sight.

Following the hours of this street event, a community march to Jerusalem's Old City begins. The march proceeds through the Old City's ancient gates and cobblestone streets, leading to the Western Wall - the Kotel Plaza. It is estimated that several thousand people file through the Old City's picturesque and narrow passageways to join in the hours of singing, dancing and speeches commemorating the Jewish return to a united Jerusalem.

In Jewish tradition, the number 40 has its own significance. It often refers to a stage of maturation and accomplishment. The Biblical flood rains stopped after 40 days, Moses was 40 when he confronted the Egyptian taskmaster, Moses was 80 when he confronted Pharaoh. The Jews were in the desert for 40 years prior to entering the Land of Israel. Rabbi Akiba was 40 when he began his study of Torah; and 40 is the number of weeks leading to human birth. And now, this forty years of Jerusalem's unification is a monumental and historic moment, marking the miraculously victorious Six Day War.

1967 was quite a different time. Israel had yet to reach its 20th anniversary. It had already experienced two wars. One, upon its creation, by neighbors who demanded that the nascent state be destroyed immediately, and the second war, eight years later, when its neighbors decided to cut off and strangulate Israel's supply lines.

Prior to 1967, relatively few American Jews even expressed an interest to visit Israel. Israel's first decades watched an immigrant-absorbing country develop at a slow and struggling pace. With minimal resources, Israel invested in military defense knowing that its Arab neighbors were preparing for another attempt to destroy it.

During the 1960s, international support for Israel was tenuous at best. Israel's neighbors were actively buying the most sophisticated weapons available. The world knew this, but continued to make it difficult for Israel to compete. Prior to 1967, the volume of belligerence and anti-Israel hate speech from the Arab world was becoming more and more deafening. Egypt's President Gamal Abd El-Nasser made his intent clear to the world: Israel's days were numbered. The theme of pushing the Jews into the sea became a steady crescendo on the Arab street. Time, Newsweek and other publications reported statistics comparing Israel's military strength to that of her threatening Arab neighbors. Israel was heavily outnumbered and out-armed in every category. The military comparison charts appeared as if an ant was being compared to an elephant.

The American Jewish community, as well as much of the world, was bracing for the annihilation of the Jewish state. There was no imaginable way for Israel to survive the sheer numbers and mighty force of the expected Arab attack without the military support of the United Kingdom or America. But that super power support was not to be found.

Once again, the Arabs cut off the supply lines to Israel, a clear act of war. Without hesitation, the leadership of Israel commanded the Israel Defense Forces to launch their attack. Within hours, the entire Egyptian air force and all Egyptian air fields were disabled. In days of fighting, the vast number of Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian tanks became useless heaps of scrap metal. And then, the Israeli forces entered the Old City of Jerusalem.

After very costly and deadly hand-to-hand combat battles against the Jordanian Old City soldiers, in shock and awe, the Israeli paratroopers found themselves standing victorious in front of the ancient Western Wall of the Temple Mount. The famous and emotional phrase spoken into the Israeli army radio transmitter was the announcement, "The Temple Mount is in our hands."

The world had gone to bed envisioning that by the next morning Israel would have been wiped off the face of the map. The resulting news was quite different. In six days, the Sinai Desert, the Gaza Strip, the Jordanian West Bank, the Golan Heights, Jerusalem's Old City and its surrounding areas were fully under Israeli control. All of the menacing Arab armies had been destroyed or forced to retreat.

West Point military analysts speak of the Six Day War as an inexplicable military victory. "Miraculous" was the West Point officer's explanation for the Israel Defense Force's victory over what was believed to be impossible odds.

In 1967, it was still okay for an army to achieve an absolute victory. Subsequent to that date, Israel has not been allowed to defeat its enemy. In future wars and conflicts, Israel would unbelievably be pressured by world powers not to accomplish a full military victory, to neglect enemy aggressions, and to even provide the enemy with guns and ammunition.

1967 was a time that Israelis were not told that they are "tired of fighting and tired
In 1967, it was still okay for an army to achieve an absolute victory.
of winning battles." Jews at that time understood that when their enemy says that he is going to kill them, the enemy means what he says - and Israel does not wait to be attacked.

During that time, no one believed that the enemy could be appeased or that, if victorious, the enemy would responsibly stop fighting at the original 1947 United Nations lines. It was understood throughout Israel that there was only one thing that the Arabs had hoped to achieve; and now, after 40 years, that goal of the destruction of Israel has not been relinquished.

Following 1967, respect for Israel and the Jews soared throughout the world. Slumbering and even non-identifying Jews began to proudly identify with the Jewish people and the Jewish State. Israel had accomplished a victory of good over evil and few in the world had any doubt about it.

Forty years is a time of great significance. It is a time of reflection and rebirth - 1967 marked the rebirth of the Jewish people, their values, their mission, and their right to exist and to contribute to this world. World politics has tried to re-frame this Jewish Israeli victory into a defeat, and it is up to us to prevent history from being erased, eroded or confused. The 1967 victory was a victory for humankind. The lessons of that era have not changed and therefore must not be forgotten.