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Our greatest victory chronicled through my grandparents’ library

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The front and back covers of Six Days in June, Israel’s Fight For Survival, by Robert J. Donovan and the staff of the Los Angeles Times. (Image: Boroditsky Bros. archive)

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When the Six Day War broke out in June 1967, I was just past my 7th birthday, in Winnipeg, Canada, a city with about 14,000 Jewish residents.

Raised in an Orthodox environment with observant grandparents and family – staunch Zionists all – I was aware of Eretz Yiroel, and B’shana Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim Habirah, but world geo-politics was a concept far off into my future, being focused as I was at the time on the Tonka truck and station wagon I had been gifted for my birthday.

The eruption of a war that wasn’t called ‘Vietnam’ was simply not something I could grasp, but very quickly and in the aftermath of the miraculous victory of Israel, I learned in a hurry, 55 years ago.

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A paperback about the Six Day War was the main source of information for me as a child, a book always found in the bookshelf in my parent’s bed frame.

This past winter, while disassembling my grandparent’s home and uncovering the possessions of generations of my father’s family upstairs and down, one of the innumerable items that had never been thrown out or given away, was a copy of that same book my parents had.

With a picture of General Moshe Dayan on the cover, there it was – Six Days in June, Israel’s Fight For Survival, by Robert J. Donovan and the staff of the Los Angeles Times.

That book – and other old and ancient novels, magazines, books and pamphlets that my son and I found in my Baba and Zaida’s home – are now an invaluable part of our collection about Israel, Judaism and Zionism.

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As I leafed through it, memories flooded back, and I struck by the sight of a chart inside that has stayed with me for a lifetime.

It laid out the size and firepower of the military forces of the Jewish State and the Arab aggressors. The difference was stark and intimidating, and made clear the magnitude of the success of the forces under Gen. Dayan’s command.

Combined Arab forces – 40- 45,100. Total Israel forces – 8- 14,000.

Tanks – 2700 vs 800. Fighter Jets – 800 vs 190. Transports – 257 vs 48. Ships – 217 vs 37.

As a child, the David vs Goliath disparity was easily understood, but the way Israel overcame the odds required reading the book over and over again (since we lived in a 3 TV channel universe). I should mention that less comprehensible to me, was the utter uselessness of the United Nations, in which our then-Prime Minister Lester Pearson (and subsequently his successor Pierre Trudeau) had invested extraordinary faith.

Tactical brilliance was required to overcome daunting military disparities, for Israel to attain success in the Six Day War over the combined Arab forces. (Chart: Six Days in June, Israel’s Fight For Survival)

Another of the books recovered from my family’s collection was The History Of The Middle East Wars, by JN Westwood.

“The war that started on 5 June 1967 has since been named the Six Day War; logically enough in view of its duration. In fact, its outcome was decided in just one day, the first. At breakfast time on that day almost the entire Israeli Air Force was dispatched against Egyptian military airfields in Sinai, along the Suez Canal and Red Sea, and certain Nile Delta and Nile Valley sites. Most of the Egyptian Air Force officers seem to have been caught between home and base in those attacks; pilots who managed to reach their aircraft were for the most part killed or injured when they were struck as they sought to take off.

“These Israeli attacks were the result of meticulous planning by the Air Force, headed by its commander Mordecai Hod, and were provided with excellent intelligence about Egyptian dispositions. In three hours that morning the entire Egyptian medium bomber force was destroyed, and most of the light bombers were put out of action too.”

And as for the retaking of Jerusalem from Jordan, Westwood described the events of June 7, 1967:

“(Lt. Gen. Mordechai) Gur’s paratroopers rushed the Lions Gate, giving access to the Old City, and moved through the Old City to the Western Wall. Meanwhile, from the other direction, the Jerusalem Brigade entered the Old City through the Dung Gate. That meant that Old Jerusalem, including the Wailing Wall so dear to Jewish tradition, was in Jewish hands once more.”

Lt. Col. Yoram Hamizrachi, seen in 1977 at a memorial ceremony in Israel for victims of Arab terrorist attacks. (Photo: Dan Hadani Collection, The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, The National Library of Israel)

A recap of the liberation of Jerusalem would not be complete without recounting the experience of my mentor, Lt. Col. Yoram Hamizrachi, the father of the publisher of TheJ.Ca, Ron East.

The following is excerpted from my column of June 7, 2020, Remembering Yoram Hamizrachi East, Who Helped Liberate Old Jerusalem In The Six Day War:

On June 7, 1967, Yoram advanced from the American district to the Damascus Gate, before reaching the Western Wall. He was among the first Israeli troops who captured the Old City of Jerusalem and celebrated by praying at the holy Kotel Ha’Ma’aravi.

His wife, Beate Zahn, was an incredibly brave, tough and sharp-minded woman from Germany who was an ambulance driver in Jerusalem during the war. The day after the victory, she drove through the Mandelbaum Gate into the Old City to pick up wounded, and heard her name called out. She stopped, and there Yoram was. The enormity of the miracle was clear to Beate, who drove a wounded Jordanian combatant to Shaarey Zedek Hospital. Had the tide turned, there would have been no similar life-saving effort for Israeli soldiers, in fact almost certainly the opposite.

He had a clarity about the nature of war, the lines that are drawn, and the human cost it exacted, that was unmatched by any speaker I have seen.

“I know who I fought against in 1967”, he once told a panel discussion. “I didn’t fight against the Palestinian people. From 1948 to 1967 the owner of the West Bank and Jerusalem was the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The enemy I fought against was the Jordanian army.” 

With Mount Hermon in the background, an IDF Sherman tank headed towards Damascus Road with the Syrian army in retreat. (Photo: Vitoriano Rasteli)

Prior to the war, in May, allegations of Israeli provocation in Syria had been used to justify Arab tactical aggression in the Suez Canal and on the world stage.

As described by Donovan in his paperback (p. 66):

“On May 13 we received accurate information that Israel was concentrating on the Syrian border huge armed forces of about 11 to 13 brigades,“ Nasser reported a week later. “The decision made by Israel at this time was to carry out an aggression against Syria as of May 17”… The “accurate information,” actually misinformation, had been given to the U.A.R. (United Arab Republic) and Syrian Intelligence agents by Soviet Intelligence agents between May 10 and 13.”

“Israel had a particular grievance against the Syrians, who were responsible for most of the terrorist attacks. They had killed civilians indiscriminately and made life a nightmare in border villages. Of all the Arab states, perhaps it could be said that Syria was most immediately responsible for the current war. Syria, ruled by military hotheads, was the country Israel wanted to punish the most.” (p. 125)

With the Sinai campaign a success, IDF reinforcements were shifted to the Golan Heights.

“The Israelis need to punish Syria before a cease-fire could be voted on in New York. Reporters listening to intercepted radio messages heard firing instructions transmitted in Russian … afterwards, the Israelis said the Syrians fought better than the Egyptians…. Soon, roads into El Quneitra were clogged with Israeli vehicles as the Jewish soldiers took up blocking positions facing Damascus in case a cease-fire was not signed. The final ceasefire was signed the following day, Sunday, June 11, in El Quneitra… Undoubtedly Israeli troops could have taken Damascus had they chosen to do so.” (p. 125-126)

A map illustrating the remarkable Israeli offensive in the Six Day War. (Photo: Israel’s Swift Victory)

Also in my inherited trove is a Special Edition of Life Magazine, Israel’s Swift Victory. Here is an excerpt from the closing editorial, June 1967:

“The early Zionists, looking toward a binational state, never thought they would, could or should replace the Arabs in Palestine. When terrorism and fighting mounted in 1947–48, Arab leaders urge Palestinian Arabs to flee, promising that the country would soon be liberated. Israel tried to induce the Arabs to stay. For this reason, the Israelis do not now accept responsibility for the Arab exodus. Often quoted is a statement of a Palestinian Arab writer that the Arab leaders “told us: ‘get out so that they can get in.’ We got out but they did not get in.”

“After the Israeli victory Arab leaders outside of Palestine reversed their policy and demanded that all the refugees be readmitted to Israel. Israel reversed its policy, refused to repatriate large numbers of Arabs on the ground that they would endanger the state. Arab leaders do not disagree on that point. Nasser, for instance, has said, “If Arabs return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist.”

“Now 1.3 million Arabs, not counting the recent influx, are listed as refugees. The United Nations Relief And Works Agency (UNRWA) has an international staff of about 100 and spends nearly 40 million a year, 60% of it from the US government. UNRWA services are performed by 11,500 Arab employees, most of the refugees. Obviously, this group has an interest in not solving the refugee problem.”

“So have the host governments. Consistently they have refused to go along with any plan or policy for the resettlement or assimilation of the refugees, preferring to use them politically. In 1955 the Arab League scuttled a Jordan Valley development project precisely because it would have reduced, perhaps by 250,000 the number of Arab refugees.”

“It’s about time this dangerous deadlock ended,” suggested the editorial, with a plan “to phase out the refugee problem in 5 to 10 years. All of the 1.3 Million could be absorbed in underpopulated Iran and Syria, provided their governments would cooperate in internationally supported development projects.”

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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