Remembering the Six Day War
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In late May 1967, I was living on the beach in Eilat with a motley crew of Jewish and gentile hippies from around the globe. At night we played guitars and watched the twinkling lights of Aqaba across the water, close, but out of reach. At dawn we travelled by bus 30 kilometers to our shifts at Timna, clearing old mining equipment at King Solomon’s 6000 year old copper mine.
Out of the clear blue sky Nasser expelled the U.N. forces from the Sinai, started amassing troops on the border, and closed the straits of Tiran. Love and peace and flowers and beads slowly began to seem childish and naive.
We helped fill sandbags around schools and shelters. I took a bus to Jerusalem and tried to enlist. The officer that I spoke to took me gently to the window of his office and pointed to a never- ending line of men with assorted kit-bags and told me that he couldn’t even deal with the reservists who were showing up without yet being called to augment the regular IDF forces.
On June 1, I moved into a house near French Hill, filled with young peaceniks waiting for 4 or 5 or perhaps even 6 armies to attack. The radio told us to keep our lights off at night, and to stay out of the streets, but not much else. The days passed while we played chess and waited for the anticipated Jordanian strike from the West Bank, with Egypt’s air force and Syria’s ground-troops in support. And then we heard from neighbors that Israel had destroyed the entire Egyptian air force before a single plane left the ground! Almost before we could stop cheering we were informed unofficially by word of mouth and jubilant radio hosts that it was over – Israel had done the impossible – taken back East Jerusalem, conquered the West Bank, Gaza, Golan and the Sinai Peninsula and that the Arabs were literally running away across the desert.
On June 14, 1967, my 23rd birthday, I walked through the Old City with thousands and thousands of Jews surrounded by victorious Israeli soldiers, up to the Temple Mount where we kissed the Kotel and knew that it would never be out of Jewish hands again.
Later I hitched to Lod airport to meet and join a group of volunteers. We were given uniforms but no guns. We were housed in barracks and spent the next month clearing out Jordanian army camps. We sang in the back of trucks as we drove past miles and miles of Jordanian army boots discarded in the desert. I was one of a few blessed, fortunate souls who raised the Israeli Flag on Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus for the first time since the War of Independence in 1948.
We drove past stone monuments erected by Israeli soldiers to mark spots where Jordanians had fought bravely and died.
As the weeks passed we drank botz (Turkish coffee) with Arab shopkeepers and Israeli soldiers in the hope of peaceful coexistence which has not yet come to pass.
Jacob Burland –
Ya’Akov Ben Zalman Simcha. March 9, 2009.
May 27, 2010
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