Anniversaries of world events come and go. This week, however, we mark one of epic proportions, and one especially meaningful to Jews: Israel’s lightning-quick victory in the Six-Day War.
For all the resulting postwar challenges Israel has had to face since — and there have been many — one salient fact overarches everything. After that historic week in June 1967, Jews around the world felt something that had eluded them before: a sense of strength and power, and the confidence that Israel was here to stay.
Our cover story on the war features accounts from locals who were there, who remember the initial dread and fear and the subsequent euphoria when multiple invading Arab armies were smashed by superior Israeli forces.
We also include an emotional story of the three IDF veterans depicted in that iconic photograph taken after Israel liberated Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Kotel. So much eternal Jewish aspiration was summed up in that photograph. It is an honor to have these heroes visit the Bay Area this week.
After the war, Israel’s borders expanded greatly. In time, Israel wisely annexed the Golan Heights and negotiated a return of the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for an enduring peace with Egypt. That left the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under Israel’s control, and they remain the country’s thorniest problems.
Because of the international opprobrium directed at Israel and its presence in those territories, the “David vs. Goliath” image Israel once enjoyed has been flipped. Many see Israel as the oppressor.
While there is much to criticize about Israel’s 50-year presence in the Palestinian territories, no one should forget the origins of this mess. Before 1967, Gaza was part of Egypt and the West Bank was part of Jordan.
Unless both parties are prepared to give up a few cherished notions, and until the Palestinians decisively root out anti-Jewish terrorism from within their society, the matsav (as Israelis call the conflict) will continue, and the Six-Day War will not have been fully resolved.
Still, this is a significant moment in our history. Fifty years ago, Israel survived a war of extermination and went on to become a military and economic superpower. That is a miracle for which we are forever thankful.
Someday, we may beat our swords into plowshares. Until then, may Israel remain strong and vigilant.