Arab Israeli Conflict
The State of Israel is Declared
Until the last moment, no one was sure whether or not the Jews in Palestine would declare the State of Israel. The British Mandate was set to end May 15th, 1948. No other leadership was planning to come in. The United Nations had approved the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. It seemed like the perfect window of opportunity to establish the State which would allow hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors a home to come to. On the other hand, Truman, the president of the United States had wanted the Jews to wait, and the Jews weren't sure Truman would recognize the new State. In addition, everyone knew that all the neighboring Arab nations would attack if the State was declared. With a vote of 6 to 5, the Jewish leadership decided to move forward. David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence (Megillat Ha'atzmaut) just before Shabbat, at 4:00pm Friday, May 14th. Truman did recognize the State of Israel, and the neighboring Arab countries did attack.
Re-uniting Jerusalem in the 6 Day War in 1967
This photo shows Motta Gur and his paratroopers at the top of Mt of Olives just before entering and re-uniting the Old City in the 6 Day War. From 1948-1967, Mt of Olives, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the West Bank were in Jordanian hands. On June 7th, 1967, the third day of the 6 Day War, the borders changed suddenly and dramatically. Tensions with Syria had been high since 1964 when Syria started building a canal to divert water from Israel. The conflict escalated in 1967 when Syria brought Jordan and Egypt into the conflict. Egypt took the lead by closing the Straits of Tiran on May 22nd, and telling UN peace keeping forces (UNEF) in the Sinai Peninsula to leave. Egyptian President Nasser said on May 27, "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight." The next day, he added: "We will not accept any...coexistence with Israel...Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel....The war with Israel is in effect since 1948."
On June 5th, the first day of the War, Israel was miraculously able to destroy the airforces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria by 12:00 noon. Two days later, Israel was able to re-unite Jerusalem.
Paratroopers at the Western Wall
For 19 years, from 1948 to 1967, Jews were not permitted to visit the Western Wall. On June 7th, Jews could not only visit, but it was under Jewish sovereignty. Commander Motta Gur said to his paratroopers, who had just taken the city, “For some two thousand years the Temple Mount was forbidden to the Jews...The Western Wall, for which every heart beats, is ours once again. Many Jews have taken their lives into their hands throughout our long history, in order to reach Jerusalem and live here. Endless words of longing have expressed the deep yearning for Jerusalem...You have been given the great privilege of completing the circle, of returning to the nation its capital and its holy center...Jerusalem is yours forever.”
–Commander Motta Gur to his brigade upon their recapture of Jerusalem’s Old City and holy sites
Rabbi Goren Leads Prayers and Sounds the Shofar at the Western Wall and the Temple Mount
Rabbi General Shlomo Goren, chaplain of the IDF who later became Cheif Rabbi of Israel, was among the first to reach the Western Wall after it came into Israeli hands. He blew the shofar and recited prayers of thanksgiving and memorial for those who fell in this battle. He said, “I am speaking to you from the plaza of the Western Wall, the remnant of our Holy Temple. This is the day we have hoped for, let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation. The vision of all generations is being realized before our eyes: The city of God, the site of the Temple, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the symbol of the nation’s redemption, have been redeemed today by you, heroes of the Israel Defense Forces. By doing so you have fulfilled the oath of generations, ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning.’ Indeed, we have not forgotten you, Jerusalem, our holy city, our glory..."
Yom Kippur War 1973
On October 6th, 1973, Yom Kippur (the holiest day of the Jewish year), Egypt took Israel by surprise, and began to build a make-shift bridge to cross the Suez Canal into the Sinai Peninsula. They took water from the Suez to hose down the Bar Lev Line sand fortifications along the Canal, and attacked Israel in the Sinai. At the same time, Syria attacked on the Golan heights. Israeli intelligence had been mistaken. Egypt had tricked Israel into believing they weren't really going to attack, but rather just doing military exercises as they had done numerous times before in previous months. Egypt and Syria, suffering embarressment over their defeat in 1967, had become heavily armed with advanced weapons and tanks. In addition, there was a lot of pressure from the United States for Israel not to launch a pre-emptive strike. According to Henry Kissinger, had Israel struck first, it would not have received "so much as a nail." Furthermore, calling up the reserves (yet another time) was crippling the already weak Israeli economy. The decision was made by Israel not to do a pre-emptive strike. As a result, many Israeli soldiers were killed in the first few days of the war. Israelis were traumatized watching their fathers, brothers, and sons being taken prisoner by the Egyptians (on TV). It immediately re-opened unhealed wounds from the Holocaust.
Nixon sends US Assistance for Yom Kippur War
This photo shows Golda Meir, who was Prime Minister of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. At that time, President Nixon delayed in sending assistance, but after a short while, decided to go ahead. It's said that he remembered that his Mother had told him if he ever had the chance to help the Jewish people that he should. Golda Meir explained, "I talked to Dinitz (Israeli Ambassador to the United States) in Washington at all hours of the night. Where was the airlift?…
I phoned Dinitz and told him that I was ready to fly to Washington incognito to meet with Nixon if he thought it could be arranged….But it wasn’t necessary. At last, Nixon himself ordered the giant C-5 Galaxies to be sent…The airlift was invaluable.
I remember going out to Lydda (Lod airport today) to watch the Galaxies come in…I thought to myself, “Thank God! I was right to reject the idea of a pre-emptive strike! It might have saved lives at the beginning, but I am sure that we would not have had that airlift which is now saving so many lives” (My Life, by Golda Meir).
Jewish Prisoners of War being Taken to Jordan 1948
This photo shows Jews of Gush Etzion (320 people) being taken prisoner at the same time that the State of Israel was being declared. Jordan had attacked Gush Etzion even before the British Mandate finished. The day before, on May 13th, Jordanians had massacred dozens of residents of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. In 1967, when the area came back into Israeli control, Kfar Etzion was the first community re-established. Although the government at the time was planning to exchange land gained in the 6 Day War for peace, they agreed to allow the community because it's strategically located to protect the road to Jerusalem. While the Israeli government was planning to give land for peace, the Arab League Summit was planning something else.
On September 1, 1967, 8 Arab heads of state met at the Arab League Summit and issued the Khartoum Resolution. The resolution included the "Three 'No's": "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it."