Dear Friend of Israel,
In the spring of 1967, the winds of war were blowing in the Middle East.
For months, Israel’s neighbors had engaged in hostile, provocative acts toward the Jewish state, accompanied by equally hostile, provocative rhetoric. Egypt sent troops into the Sinai, and blockaded the Straits of Tiran, cutting one of Israel’s key shipping routes. Egyptian president Nasser made his intentions clear: “This is our chance, Arabs,” he thundered, “to deal Israel a mortal blow of annihilation.” The president of Iraq echoed his words, saying, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified.” Syria’s defense minister said “the time has come to begin a battle of annihilation.”
Israel realized her very existence was at stake. She could sit and wait for her enemies to attack. Or, she could send her armies in self-defense against the hostile forces surrounding her. She chose the latter course.
On the morning of June 5, 1967, the entire Israeli air force struck at Egyptian airfields while Egyptian pilots were still eating breakfast. It was a brilliant move – within hours, hundreds of Egyptian planes were destroyed. Similar attacks were launched against Jordan and Syria, crippling their air forces. Israel then concentrated on fighting Arab forces on the ground, winning numerous victories. Six days later, Israel accepted an offer of cease-fire from her enemies.
The Six-Day War was a stunning victory for the Jewish state. Israeli forces gained control of Gaza and Sinai from Egypt, Judea and Samaria (comprising the West Bank territories) from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. The Holy City of Jerusalem, divided since the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, was at last united under Israeli rule.
In 1968, one year after the Six-Day War ended, author Eric Hoffer wrote a memorable article reflecting on Israel’s plight. “I have a premonition that will not leave me,” he concluded. “As it goes with Israel, so will it go with all of us.”
Hoffer was right. Radical Islamists have declared war not just on Israel, but on the West, and indeed against anyone who does not subscribe to their hateful ideology. We’ve seen this countless times – most recently in Manchester, England, and in the massacre of 29 Coptic Christians in Egypt.
As the anniversary of the Six-Day War nears, let us continue to thank God for Israel’s amazing victory in 1967, and for her survival against all odds through the ages. And, as we continue our fervent prayers for peace, let us also continue to speak with moral clarity about the threat that faces not just Israel, but freedom-loving people everywhere.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President