This week, Israel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, and the reunification of Jerusalem. This miraculous event transformed the country, and remains one of the most important moments in Israel’s history.
In May 1967, the Egyptians significantly stepped up their actions and rhetoric against Israel. Lead by President Nasser, the Egyptians moved troops into the Sinai Desert, and closed the Gulf of Aqaba and the Straits of Tiran, preventing Israeli ships getting to Eilat. By the end of the month, Nasser was speaking to the Egyptian parliament about how “We are now ready to confront Israel,” and to tell the Egyptian public, “The battle will be a general one, and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.” In Israel, the country was terrified, as it ominously prepared for a war of survival. Israel was outnumbered by the Arab armies, who had more soldiers, planes and tanks than Israel did.
Israel responded by launching a preemptive attack, Operation Focus, in which they managed to destroy Egypt’s air-force while it was still on the ground. This paved the way to success in defending Israel on the Egyptian front. Syria also attacked Israel, which was expected, but the Jordanians also began attacking Jerusalem, opening up a third front of the war. Israel succeeded in defending itself on both of these fronts, and miraculously, also regained control of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, from which Jews had been banned from visiting since the Jordanian conquest of 1948. The news spread like wildfire around the Jewish world – “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”
There are many fantastic documentaries about this incredible war (see for example, here and here.) Jerusalem Day is the annual day that celebrates the incredible turnaround in Israel’s fate – in just six days, the country had gone from the threat of imminent destruction, to a decisive victory, and a return to Judaism’s holiest sites.
This year, the 50th anniversary, is being celebrated by a range of events including concerts and parades. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis, and friends of Israel around the world, will celebrate the moment that the young Jewish state fought off its enemies, and returned to its holiest sites.
Happy Jerusalem Day!
Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern