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Six-Day War Memories: Our First Minutes at the Western Wall

We finish our six-day commemoration of the 1967 Six-Day War with memories of Israelis approaching the Western Wall once Jerusalem was once again Israel’s. An IDF paratrooper and a veteran Zionist recall the joy felt upon entering the Holy City for the first time:

“We ran there, a group of panting soldiers, lost on the plaza of the Temple Mount, searching for a giant stone wall. We did not stop to look at the Mosque of Omar even though this was the first time we had seen it close up. Forward! Forward! Hurriedly, we pushed our way through the Magreb Gate and suddenly we stopped, thunderstruck. There it was before our eyes! Gray and massive, silent and restrained. The Western Wall!

“Slowly, slowly I began to approach the Wall in fear and trembling like a pious cantor going to the lectern to lead the prayers. I approached it as the messenger of my father and my grandfather, of my great-grandfather and of all the generations in all the exiles who had never merited seeing it – and so they had sent me to represent them. Somebody recited the festive blessing: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who has kept us alive, and maintained us and brought us to this time.” But I could not answer “Amen.” I put my hand on the stones and the tears that started to flow were not my tears. They were the tears of all Israel, tears of hope and prayer, tears of Chasidic tunes, tears of Jewish dances, tears which scorched and burned the heavy gray stone.”
Moshe Amirav, IDF paratrooper

“Narrow alleys, filthy passageways, garbage at the entrances of shuttered shops, the stench of dead legionnaires – but we paid no attention. Our eyes were fixed on the golden dome which could be seen from a distance. There, more or less, it had to be! We marched faster to keep up with the beating of our hearts. We were almost running. We met a soldier from one of the forward units and asked him the way and hurried on. We went through a gate and down some steps. I looked to the right and stopped dead. There was the Wall in all its grandeur and glory! I had never seen it before, but it was an old friend, impossible to mistake. Then I thought that I should not be there because the Wall belongs in the world of dreams and legends and I am real.

“Reality and legend, dream and deed, all unite here. I went down and approached the Wall and stretched out my hand towards the huge, hewn stones. But my hand was afraid to touch and of itself returned to me. I closed my eyes, took a small, hesitant step forward, and brought my lips to the Wall. The touch of my lips opened the gates of my emotions and the tears burst forth. A Jewish soldier in the State of Israel is kissing history with his lips.

“Past, present and future all in one kiss. There will be no more destruction and the Wall will never again be deserted. It was taken with young Jewish blood and the worth of that blood is eternity. The body is coupled to the rows of stones, the face is pushed into the spaces between them and the hands try to reach its heart. A soldier near me mumbles in disbelief, ‘We are at the Wall, at the Wall…’ ”
Avraham Duvdevani

Tags: History , Israel

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