Our brothers who fell in the War of Independence: We have not forsaken your dreams nor abandoned your teachings. We have returned to the [Temple] Mount, to the cradle of our nation’s history, to the heritage of our Patriarchs, the land of the Judges, the stronghold of the Kingdom of David. We have returned to Hebron and Samaria, to Bethlehem and Jericho … In order that Jerusalem shall live, we know that the soldiers of the IDF must stand guard on the mountains of Samaria and the bridges of the Jordan. … This day we bear witness not to death but to life, to the rebirth of Jerusalem, Hebrew Jerusalem, Jerusalem our beloved, Jerusalem the free. (Rav Aloof Moshe Dayan, June 14, 1967, reburial ceremony for the soldiers who fell in the War of Independence)

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On the slopes of Mount Zion, by David’s tomb, is a memorial to the nameless millions of Jews murdered by Hitler. By the flickering light of memorial candles in the underground grotto, one can read, smeared in black ash on the wall, “The voice of your brother’s blood screams to Me from the ground.

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“Israelis are Jews who have declared they will not ever again be victims – and their army is an expression of this will. … As such, it unifies a people who will not die. Girls of 18, called by draft for their 20 months of service, are ushered forth by families as if to a wedding… Boys and girls meet and marry in the army, and the army provides rabbi, service, wedding dance and banquet. … The mobilization process, the most sensitive in the world, can call up 10% of all Israel’s 2,300,000 Jews in just 48 hours— every reservist at his station, behind gun, at the tank, at the wheel—all ready to fight, or die. The army which defends Israel takes this emotion for granted. …

“Israel had achieved all its military objectives at a cost of 679 dead and 2,563 wounded. … Their troops had wrecked the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria and captured more than 12,000 prisoners. On the diplomatic front, Israel faced hazards. Premier Levi Eshkol ruled out withdrawal to the old 1949 armistice boundaries: ‘The land of Israel shall no longer be a no man’s land, wide open to acts of sabotage and murder.’ ”

The war had begun on Monday morning, “and for the first hour Cairo is apprehensive. … But at 10, Cairo radio broadcasts the news that Egyptian planes have already shot down 24 Israeli aircraft and the ancient city erupts with joy. ‘The battle of liberation has begun,’ cries the radio. In an hour the radio claims the bag of Israeli planes has climbed to 45. Then 60. By lunch it is 70. The American press corps, gathered at Egyptian press headquarters in Cairo’s radio and television building, is stunned. By nightfall Cairo radio informs its millions of listeners that Egypt and her allies have shot down more than 100 Israeli planes against a loss of only two. The city goes to sleep confident the war will be quick and the triumph sweet. … But the night is filled with yellow and orange bursts of ack-ack and streams of tracer bullets.” (Theodore H. White, Thomas Thompson, Life magazine, June 23, 1967)

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The truth was that on May 30, 1967, King Hussein of Jordan signed a military agreement with Nasser to lead the Jordanian army to annihilate Israel, and on May 31, 1967, Iraqi president Abdel-Rahman Aref announced: “This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is to wipe Israel off the map.” On June 4, 1967, Iraq joined Nasser’s military alliance against Israel.The truth was that, putting aside a mutual defense agreement signed with President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, the United States was to betray Israel with President Lyndon Johnson’s infamous and well documented Chamberlain-esqe words, “If Israel goes alone, it will be alone!” But Israel would not submit to becoming another Czechoslovakia. What the world couldn’t see, as it silently awaited Israel’s annihilation, was that Israel was never alone. The truth was that the president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, told the world on May 17, 1967, on Cairo Radio’s Voice of the Arabs: “All Egypt is now prepared to plunge into total war which will put an end to Israel.” And the world was silent. The truth was that on May 20, 1967, Syria’s then-defense minister Hafez al-Assad told the world: Our forces are now ready not only to repulse the aggression but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to expel the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland.” (What about those poor Palestinians with their dangling keys?)

The truth was that by noon on June 5, Day 1, four hours after Israeli airplanes took off (Mirage and Mystère jets purchased from France since the United States had continued its embargo of all weaponry to Israel), flying west over the Mediterranean, they then turned 180 degrees, proceeding back eastward toward Egypt. Their attack had destroyed the entire Russian-supplied air force of Egypt. The truth was that although the war started in 1967, the seeds of war had been sown ten years earlier, in March 1957, when Eisenhower demanded that Israel withdraw from the Sinai and allow United Nations “peacekeepers” to take up positions in the Sinai. Ben-Gurion had demanded written assurances from the U.S. president. Ten years later, the American agreement proved worthless, as Nasser demanded the “peacekeepers” be removed so Egypt could attack Israel. But Israel heard the echo of a covenant made thousands of years before. “I will be your shield, Abram; your reward will be great.”

And it came to pass that in June of 1967 the world fell silent again, taking a front row seat in anticipation of another historic Jewish slaughter. The Arabs were confident and outspoken about their intentions. In the United Nations and in the halls of Washington, the silence was deafening.

Shema Yisrael … By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. … “Sing for us from Zion’s song!” our captors demanded. How can we sing the song of Hashem upon alien soil? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue adhere to my palate if I fail to recall you… (Psalm 137:1-6) Jerusalem would not be forgotten.

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At 9:00 a.m. came Motta’s message that Augusta Victoria had been captured and everyone at Binyanei Ha’ooma was seized with its impact. The time had come. … By 9:45 we were on Mount Scopus. I radioed to Arik – “Where are you?” “At the Lion’s Gate” came the reply, and before the last word had been uttered we were back in our jeeps racing down the mountain – our hearts pounding as loud as our motors. … We were going into the Old City! … never to leave it again.

Ahead on the road from the valley to the Lion’s Gate was a column of paratroopers led by Gen. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a sefer Torah under his right arm, a shofar in his left hand, his beard bristling like the point of a spear, his face bathed in perspiration. “Rabbi,” I called out, “come aboard. We’re going to the same place.” “No,” he replied. “To the Temple Mount one goes on foot.” And as we raced off, over our radio we heard the words “Har haBayit beyadeinu – the Temple Mount is in our hands!” My eyes glazed over. I couldn’t believe it. I screamed, “Repeat!” and coming back was, “The Temple Mount is in our hands. … We’re going to the Kotel.” We drove through the Gate of the Tribes and down the Via Dolorosa. …When the jeep could go no further we jumped out and then ran until we stepped through a doorway, and the breath of the site caught in our throats. … Tears began to run down our cheeks. … The Western Wall quivered with memory. We beheld the huge paved courtyard crowned against the blue sky of June 7, 1967…a spectacle of legend. The flag of Israel flew overhead. … Rabbi Goren caught up and prostrated himself toward the Holy of Holies and in a resonant voice he recited the Prayer to Battle (Deut. 20:3-4): “Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day into battle against your enemies; let not your heart be faint; fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them. For the L-rd your G-d is He that goeth with you to fight for you…” Tall and awesome and glorious, with the same ferns creeping between the great stones… Silently I bowed my head. In the narrow space were paratroopers, fatigued, overburdened with weapons, there they wept… These were the tears of joy, of love, of passion, of a dreamed-of first reunion with our ancient monument…of devotion and prayers. They clung to its stones, kissed them, these rough, battleweary paratroopers, their lips framing the Shema…returned after 2,000 years of memory to the site of our Temple. But more exhausted, prouder than all of them was Rabbi Goren. Wrapped in a tallit, blowing the shofar and roaring like a lion: “Blessed be the L-rd G-d, Comforter of Zion and Builder of Jerusalem, Amen.” The rabbi, like one who had waited all his life for this moment, then intoned the Kaddish for those who had fallen. The restrained weeping became fullthroated sobs – an emotional outburst. Sorrow, fervor, happiness and pain combined to produce this mass of grieving and joyous men – their cheeks wet, their voices unsteady. Again the shofar – tekiya, shevarim, tekiya – and again the rabbi screamed, “L’shana hazot, b’sha’ah hazot, b’Yerushalayim!” – This year, at this hour, at this moment, in Jerusalem! At Binyanei Ha’ooma an Order of the Day was born, “We are standing on your threshold, Jerusalem. Today we entered your gates. The City of David and Solomon is in our hands. We will never leave you again. This morning in the shadow of the Western Wall we sang Hatikva, we mourned our dead, fallen in the battle for our city. Brave fighters, devoted warriors, this day your valor shall be in our hearts forever. (Memories of General Uzi Narkiss)

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June 10: Israel and its enemies accepted UN Security Council cease-fire demands. The war ended, leaving Israel in control of the Sinai Peninsula, eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Judea-Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

June 11: A day of reflection, of joy, and of rest. … “Never in human history did an aggressor make his purpose known in advance so clearly and so widely. Certain of victory, both the Arab leaders and their peoples threw off all restraint. Between the middle of May and fifth of June, worldwide newspapers, radio and, most incisively, television brought home to millions of people the threat of politicide bandied about with relish by the leaders of these modern states. Even more blatant was the exhilaration which the Arabic peoples displayed at the prospect of executing genocide on the people of Israel. In those three weeks of mounting tension, people throughout the world watched and waited in growing anxiety – or in some cases, in hopeful expectation – for the overwhelming forces of at least Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq to bear down from three sides to crush tiny Israel and slaughter her people.” [Never would the world be so surprised.] – Samuel Katz, Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine

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Some were witnesses; some are the inheritors. Never was there any honor in powerlessness, in victimhood or in martyrdom. For it is written, “I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring – to love Hashem, your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cleave to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, to dwell upon the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deut. 30:19-20)

Shabbat Shalom, 06/09/2017                     Jack “Yehoshua” Berger

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