Memories of the Six-Day War—Fifty Years Later
On the 50th anniversary of Israel’s Six-Day War, we asked our readers: Where were you in June 1967? How old were you? What do you remember?
Our readers wrote about their anxieties, hopes and fears. But most of all, they wrote about their communities—the reactions from their parents, teachers, friends and spouses watching the conflict play out. Here is a selection of our readers’ responses.
“I was nine years old, a student at a Yeshiva. I remember each day being gathered into the cafeteria for a special prayer service. It was the first time I remember seeing all the staff davening (praying) with such kavanah; adults crying and beating their chests. We all prayed with all our hearts for the safety of Israel. I went into New York City with my best friend to make fundraising phone calls for Magen David Adom (I can’t believe I was nine!). Everyone was helpful and pledged to send what they could. My father was in the Haganah and fought in 1948. On June 11, when the war was over, he cheered and cried, especially when we saw the pictures of the Kotel on our black-and-white TV.”
“This is not my story, but my husband’s, who died in 2012. Jhan was a Zionist, born in 1948. When the war broke out in 1967, he mixed his sense of adventure and his sense of Zionism and left New York City to join the Israeli army. Unfortunately, by the time he got there, the war was over. However, Jhan found a place for himself on Kibbutz Revivim, picking peaches. It was a good lesson for a New York City Jew who had never lived on a farm before. Jhan told me that he remembered a particular moment of picking the ripest, juiciest peach and putting it in his apron pocket for later—for hafsika (break). When mid-morning arrived, he took that peach and went to sit under a shady tree. He took a bite, and as the juice dripped down his chin, he had the strongest emotional response. He—the son of Holocaust survivors—was now sitting in Israel, where he could live and volunteer and was welcome to be part of the culture and life of the country. That peach was much more than fruit; it was tangible evidence of the lifeblood of his people’s history—his people, his land, his heritage.”
“1967 was the summer after my bar mitzvah. I have a vivid memory of my Zaydie telling me about going to the bank to borrow money, so he and my Bubbie could send it to Israel. In the 50 years which have passed, I’ve never heard another story of people who would borrow money and send it to Israel.”
“I was in 4th grade at a Jewish day school outside Chicago. The teacher explained to us what was happening, and we all made tzedakah boxes. Every single one of us, with our parents, went door to door to collect money to support Israel. We all had the feeling that Israel might be pushed right into the sea. Very scary for a lot of us at the time.”
“We were living temporarily in the Washington DC area, as my husband was drafted into the U.S. Army after finishing graduate school. We had a new baby, our third girl, and she never slept, nursing constantly. So, for six days, I sat in front of our black-and-white 19-inch TV watching the progress of the war, my heart in my mouth the whole time. Fifty years later, we still live in the Washington area. That baby has two half-grown children of her own.”
“It was exam week at the end of my freshman year at The Johns Hopkins University. A guy whom I considered a friend felt it was okay to say, with me in earshot, ‘Israel’s army is going to get its ass kicked. Just look at the Jews you see here on campus. Israel doesn’t stand a chance.’ A few days later, I felt an immense surge of pride at what my people had accomplished.”
“I had just celebrated my bar mitzvah in Norfolk, Virginia. I have two distinct memories relating to Christian support for Israel. The first was hearing for the first time ever an announcement over the outdoor public address system of the public school I attended while waiting for the doors to open for my seventh grade class. They felt compelled to announce that a war had broken out involving Israel. At an emergency rally in our synagogue a night or two later, not only did I give my bar mitzvah money, but one of my father’s Christian clients gave $1,000 to the emergency fund. When I expressed surprise, my father mentioned that even local labor unions invested in Israel Bonds. These were the first instances in my memory in which I learned that Christians were also concerned about the State of Israel.”
“I was 12 years old studying for my bat mitzvah, which was to be on June 17. I remember thinking that Israel would be at war during my bat mitzvah, and that made very sad. Israel was very important to me. It was sad that Israel was at war, and especially sad that I would be thinking about Israel and the fighting during my bat mitzvah. Alas, my fears were unrealized because the war ended before my bat mitzvah day came.”
“I was a 24-year-old young Jewish Center professional working with teens at the Hartford JCC. When the war was won, Murray Shapiro, Len Friedman, Harold Cohen, Albert Ben Zvie and I, all colleagues, got in Murray’s Nash Rambler and left for the celebration at Lafayette Park. It was a wondrous day of dancing, singing and celebrating with thousands of others.”