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Six-Day War Memories: Shabbat Saved My Life

On June 5, 1967, the Six-Day War began, as Israel was forced into battle against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Over the next six days, we’ll be featuring Israelis’ memories of those six days 48 years ago. We begin with the story of Shmuel Gurewicz, who was a member of the IDF reserves:

In May 1967, when Colonel Nasser, the Egyptian President massed troops in Sinai on the Israeli border and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, Israel regarded this as a declaration of war. While the diplomats were running around between Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv, the Israeli public was preparing for war and expected the worst. The Arab leaders were inciting their populations with dramatic promises that they will “push the Jews into the sea”.

In Israel the army started a general mobilization. First the pilots were called up and the armoured corps. Then more and more reserves were called up.

More and more homes were left without their fathers/husbands…

On Monday (5th June) morning at 5.00am, I went to Victor’s tent and begged him to let me go and see my family even if for a short period of time. Victor then told me that he will let me go but only for eight hours. I must be back by 3.00pm.

It must be pointed out that no one knew that the war is to begin in about two hours. Even Victor who was our commanding officer did not know.

I did not wait to argue about the eight hours. I took my rifle, my Talit and Tefilin in my backpack and ran!

Very soon I got a lift with a motor cyclist and arrived in Jerusalem, where my wife and children were (at the home of my sister–in–law) about 8.30 am

One can imagine the reunion with my wife and children!

After a while the radio reported that heavy fighting has broken out in the south. So the long-expected war has began.

In Jerusalem, people felt safe. No one believed that Jordan would start any hostilities. Jerusalem was then a divided city. The distance from East Jerusalem under Jordanian control was the same as from West Jerusalem under Israeli control.

But at about 11.00, the Jordanians started shelling West Jerusalem. We all went down to the air raid shelter. I ended up again the only soldier with a whole shelter full of women and children.

A little later I called up the Ketzin Hayir to report that I am in Jerusalem and what shall I do. I was told that I must return to my unit and in fact I should have not been away in the first place. So I had to say good bye to my family and in the middle of the Jordanian shelling made my way to the main road where I waited together with many more soldiers for a ride. Finally I got a ride with a police car which dropped me off in Ramle. From there I had to walk about 2 hours to join my unit on that hill near Budrus. All the way, shells were exploding in the distance and also near by.

I got to my unit at about 5.00pm. I tried to find my fox hole to take cover but could not find it. Something changed here since I left that morning. I found Victor and reported that I returned. He looked at his watch and sternly told me off for being 2 hours late. I began excusing myself that I got stuck in Jerusalem and so on….

He then turned to me with a smiling face and with tears in his eyes: “now I know that there is a G-d in heaven! At exactly 3.00pm, a shell fell and exploded in your fox hole!”

If I would have taken leave on the previous Friday night, I would not have been away on that Monday! And I would have not been here telling this story.

Shabbat saved my life!

Tags: History , Israel

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