With the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War approaching, Jewish News asked Israelis now living in Arizona to share their memories of that monumental clash.
On June 5, 1967, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) made a pre-emptive strike against thousands of Egyptian troops massing at its border, destroying almost the entire Egyptian Air Force. Jordan and Syria soon joined forces with Egypt to attack Israel. By the time a cease-fire agreement was signed on June 11, victorious Israeli forces had seized control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
Yoram Gold, who now lives in Scottsdale, was 16 in 1967, and remembers feeling fear. Chaim Talmon of Phoenix, 19 at the time and enlisted in the IDF, doesn’t remember “any scary moments.” Part of Talmon’s job at the air force base he was attached to was to “protect the base from enemy aircraft.” But it turned out, of course, that he didn’t need to do that during the Six-Day War.
Gold was in a boarding school about eight miles from the Jordanian border at the time, and his roommate was an Israeli Arab. “For both of us, there was a lot of uncertainty” in the weeks leading up to the war and during the six days, Gold said. The Egyptian and Syrian governments, he said, were conducting “psychological warfare, saying ‘We are going to eliminate Israel.’ We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Rachel Shamir, who lives with her husband, Moshe Raccach, in Prescott Valley, was a young mother of a toddler and an infant at the time the war began, and she said she felt a mixture of fear, sadness and relief around the time of the war.
She was relieved, she said, when Gen. Moshe Dayan was named defense minister because he was so confident in the IDF’s capabilities. On the first day of the war, when Israel destroyed Egypt’s air force, Shamir said she “had a feeling something was going to happen that day.” Because her husband at the time was in the IDF, she lived in a neighborhood near Tel Aviv with other military families. “The hardest thing was hearing the names” of fallen Israeli soldiers as the days passed, she said.
Shamir’s current husband was deputy commander of a military camp during the war. He had a very old portable radio with him and every afternoon he and other soldiers would listen to the head of Israeli intelligence deliver an update on what was happening in the war.
“He would tell us what the ‘other side’ was doing,” Raccach said. “His voice and tone calmed everybody down. It was very soothing to hear this man talking to us.”
Avi Knishinsky of Scottsdale liked to listen to “The Voice of Cairo” during the six days of the war, because “the broadcaster spoke Hebrew with a very funny accent. It was fun to listen to him knowing that Egypt was losing the war, but hearing the broadcaster say that Egyptian forces were ‘already moving toward Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.’ He sounded like a clown.”
What stays with most of those we spoke to are the power, precision and stunning capabilities of the IDF. Knishinsky often thinks of how grateful he was to be able to go to the Western Wall after the war ended.
Talmon is most thankful for the liberation of the Old City and Israel taking control of the Golan Heights.
“When I was a teenager, I worked on kibbutzim near the Golan Heights and sometimes a kibbutz would come under fire from the Syrians, he said. “To be able to go to the Golan Heights after the war without fear was exciting.”
Added Knishinsky: “The united spirit of the nation during the war was amazing. There was such a spirit of helping each other. I’ll never forget it. It was one of a kind.”