They’re now graying, and many have more than comfortable paunches on their midriffs. But those Israelis who fought in the war of June 5-11 1967, now historically referred to as the Six Day War, still remember its glory. The Six Day War: a miracle victory against the combined armies of three Arab countries, two of whom are now at peace with Israel.
Recently, a reunion was made of the veterans who fought in the battle to liberate Jerusalem, three of whom are shown here when they experienced being at the Kotel or Western Wall for the first time in their lives. In fact, Israelis had not been allowed into the Old City and especially to pray at Judaism’s most holy site since the siege of this part of Jerusalem during the War of Independence, in 1948. The unification of the city, together with the capture of the entire Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank of the Jordan, including the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria, not only changed the history of the Middle East, but of the entire world.
As a result of this war, Israel’s status changed from being a tiny country under siege from all its neighbors to an occupying power due to its new jurisdiction over all the inhabitants of the lands it conquered during one of the most miraculous military conflicts of modern times.
It hasn’t been an easy change for the State of Israel, as less than 7 years later an even more terrifying war broke out, the Yom Kippur War, in which Israel was ferociously
Attacked by the combined forces of Egypt and Syria; a war that in its first critical days seemed almost to be the end of the Jewish State. Though Israeli military forces managed to win this war, at a terrible cost of more than 3,000 young soldier’s lives, and despite an eventual peace treaty with Egypt and the return to that country of the Sinai Peninsula, the situation regarding the ‘territories’ has become even more complicated with two ‘Intifada’ uprisings, scores of suicidal terrorist attacks and, now the specter of civil war amongst the Palestinians, who were given autonomy in the 1994 Oslo Accords.
40 years later, still no peace has occurred between Israel and its neighbors, which now include Israel’s entire northern regions after last summer’s Lebanon II war. Israel still maintains diplomatic relations with both the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. But it’s a very chilly peace, with indications that Egypt may one day again be at war with Israel, since that country continues to build up and improve it’s military forces; this time with help of Israel’s mutual ally, the United States.
The situation with Syria, Israel’s most immediately dangerous adversary, is as tense as ever, with Syrian President Bashar Assad, basking in the glory of his recent “re-election” to another seven year term in office, calling for the ‘liberation of the Golan Heights from the hands of the Occupiers’ (Israel). And Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, head of the Lebanese based Hezbollah, is now stronger than ever following the end of last summers war in which more than 4,000 ketiusha rockets were launched into Israel, striking even Haifa, Israel’s third largest city.
And on top of all of this, what might be the most dangerous enemy of all for the Jewish State, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is bent on “uprooting the Zionist tree once and for all from this region”.
40 years after; and yet it seems almost like yesterday. As an ancient philosopher once said in Rome concerning events in this part of the world: “the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain”. And judging from events which have transpired in the past 40 years, these words are still true in regards to the prospects of peace between Israel and its neighbors.
Still, the glory and the pride of those six fateful days, four decades ago, still linger in the minds of many who fought that historical war; including the three men who gathered a few days ago in the same spot where they stood so long ago in awe of their faith’s, and country’s most hallowed historical, symbol – the Kotel.