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Israel's Dreamers: Heroes and the Shaping of a Nation

04-21-2017
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JERUSALEM, Israel -- It was a war that changed the Middle East and it only lasted six days.

"The Temple Mount is in our hands!" Those were the famous words of Commander Motta Gur, whose men helped reunite Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty during the 1967 Six-Day War, fulfilling a 2,000-year-old dream.

Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation is a new book about the battle that reunited Jerusalem and how the heroes of that battle went on to shape Israel.

"This is really a story of an Israeli band of brothers, young Israeli men who gave the Jewish people their greatest victory, I would say in history, probably since the exodus in Egypt," author Yossi Klein Halevi said. "You know, suddenly, we're born again as a people."

In a recent interview in Jerusalem, CBN's Scott Ross spoke with American-born Israeli Halevi about his book.

The title comes from Psalm 126, which says, "When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with singing."
 
In the book, Halevi personalizes the history of Israel since the 1967 war by telling the story through the eyes of six paratroopers who were such dreamers.

"I felt that what was missing in the way people relate to the story of Israel was that personal connection," Halevi told CBN News.

"And I always wondered, you know, what happened to the guys who liberated the Western Wall in 1967?"

He said he grew up with that iconic picture of the battle-hardened soldiers staring up at the Wall as an image "symbolizing the 'like dreamers' story of Israel."

He said the paths the paratroopers have taken in his story reflect the microcosm of the stories in the development of Israel.

"The range that you have in this book are deeply religious people, West Bank [Judea and Samaria] settlers, secular Israelis, Tel Aviv residents, kibbutz-niks, left-wingers. And it was very important for me to tell the story of the whole people of Israel because the way that I understand the Jewish people is that we're a family," Halevi said.

Halevi said he spent 12 of his 32 years in Israel researching and writing the book.

"One of my characters, Arik Achmon, who was one of the first Israeli paratroopers into the Old City in 1967 -- and actually led the crossing of the Suez Canal in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, you know when Ariel Sharon turned the tide of battle in the Yom Kippur War, it was the same guys who fought in Jerusalem in '67," Halevi said.

Achmon "starts off as a boy living on one of these socialist, radical socialist kibbutzim, little agrarian settlement," Halevi explained. "And he leaves the kibbutz and ends up becoming the CEO of Israel's domestic airline and he privatizes -- Israeli's economy was socialist in those years."

"He fights the trade unions and he creates the first privatized company in the State of Israel and opens the way to the high-tech free economy that we have today. So for me, Arik Achmon, is a multiple hero," he said.
 
Meir Ariel, the greatest Hebrew poet-singer of his generation, became known as Israel's Bob Dylan.

Hanan Port founded Kfar Etzion, the first settlement in Judea and Samaria after 1967.

Halevi says his book tries to show the struggle within the Israeli soul over making peace with the Palestinians and dividing Jerusalem.

"[In] my neighborhood, I've got Jewish neighbors; I've got Arab neighbors in the same neighborhood, in the same building. Now, how do you separate that? How do you divide a city without -- God forbid -- destroying it?" he asked.

"I don't see how Jerusalem can be shared between two political entities that are emerging out of a 100-year war," he said. 

As someone who lives in Jerusalem, Halevi said he prays for himself that he "personally should be worthy of living here -- of holding this story at this moment. I pray that the people of Israel will be worthy of this story."
 
"I pray for our strength. I pray for our generosity of spirit. I pray that we be protected from hatred -- that our hearts be open to love all the people of this land and all those who turn toward the city with hope, and I pray for all of us," he said. "That's my prayer."

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