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'We Thought We Were Losing Israel Forever': Israelis Remember the Six-Day War

05-15-2017
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Israelis remember the Six-Day War
Israelis remember the Six-Day War

JERUSALEM, Israel After 2,000 years of occupation by various world conquerors, Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish sovereignty in the 1967 Six-Day War. But since then, that victory has pitted much of the world against Israel and even divided Israelis. 

CBN's Scott Ross took to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to ask Israelis what they know about the war and its impact and how they feel about the idea of dividing Jerusalem. 

"I was in New York. That was an extraordinary situation," recalled Martin Oliner. "All the troops were lined up. [Egyptian President Abdel] Nasser's troops – we thought we were losing Israel forever. We thought it was really a Goliath story. Nasser was ready to annihilate us."

But after just three days, Israeli forces routed the Jordanians. The victory reunited the Jewish capital, including the Old City and Temple Mount. 

The Six-Day War

"What do you know about the Six-Day War, historically?" Ross asked.

"[It's] before my time, before I was born," replied Jonathan from South Africa. "Obviously, it's hugely significant for all Jews. It seems to be a seminal event."

"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Avi Sela, a veteran of the Six-Day War.

"I was 20 years old. I remember well that time. I was a young lieutenant in Golani Infantry Division, in the north, in the Golan Heights. I was even hurt here," he said, pointing to his chin. "[By] a shell."

"We overcame pharaoh. We'll also overcome whatever this is next to us," said David Moses, who is originally from the U.S.

"The Six-Day War is almost like a myth, I think, in the Israeli society of today," said Kobe from Tel Aviv. "It was a sign of Israel's strength and ability to defend itself against all odds. It's sort of like Israel's military DNA was almost based on the Six-Day War." 

"It's a very important war in the history of Israel," said 24-year-old Noa. She added that she thought people her age appreciate that.

"We all know that it's one of the biggest moments in the history of the Jewish state," said Gilad.

Should Jerusalem Be Divided?

You might think such a victory after 2,000 years would leave no room for discussion. But as Jerusalem grew and thrived, adversaries – from within and without -- demanded that Israel turn over eastern Jerusalem to Palestinian Arabs, dividing the city as the potential capital of two states. 

According to Isaac Dror, Jerusalem will "never ever" be divided.

"It will never ever happen," said Dror, who heads the education department of Independence Hall, where Israel's founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

"Because you know now after so many years, finally, we realized the plan of God. And the plan is to put us in Jerusalem, the Jews, to bring us back to Jerusalem, so we can protect what is so precious – so precious to the human race," Dror said.

"Give them half [of Jerusalem]," said Kobe, laughing. "Just give them half. I think that [in] Tel Aviv you'll find more left-wing people that say, 'Who cares about a piece of ground as long as the blood stops?'" 

Gilad disagrees.

"It's a shame when any Israeli [is] saying such a thing. It must be a shame because Jerusalem is the City of David," he said. "That's the most important place on earth for the Israelis, for the Jewish [people]. We got it thousands of years ago from God and it's our only place on earth." 

Abigail, a teacher, said, "I think we have kind of mixed feelings because from one side of the story, of course we're happy that we got all Jerusalem and the people are permitted to go to both parts. But I, of course, from the other side see the suffering of the Palestinians on the east side of Jerusalem." 

Jonathan from South Africa sided with Gilad, saying, "I certainly believe that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people."

Jewish and Arab Neighborhoods

Under former U.S. President Bill Clinton's plan from the 1990s, eastern Jerusalem and the Old City would have been divided along ethnic lines – Jewish neighborhoods to Jews, Arab neighborhoods to Arabs. But because the neighborhoods are in many cases intertwined, most people thought that would be impossible.

"No way! It's very difficult. If you go to east Jerusalem you have one Arab neighborhood, one Jewish neighborhood, one Arab," observed Ian Brook. "I wish we could all live in peace, but dividing Jerusalem is not a possibility." 

Carmel from Tel Aviv said if dividing Jerusalem would bring peace, she would be in favor of it. "I would like to think so, but I really don't think so," she said.

"I think some parts of Jerusalem should be for all nations, like, the Kotel (Western Wall) of course should be for the Jews," said Abigail. "But I don't think we need east Jerusalem."

But fellow Israeli resident David Moses insisted, "The dividing of Jerusalem is about destroying the State of Israel. Dividing Jerusalem is about pushing us a little further in the direction of the Mediterranean Sea." 

Ron Hoffman was walking in the streets of Jerusalem with a giant Israeli flag.

"Arabs can walk all the way here to the market freely. Try to go now to east Jerusalem with the flag. What can happen?" he asked. "First of all, the police (are) going to tell me get out. You escalated and you agitated [the situation]."

What Part Does God Play?

And does God enter into the equation?

"I think there's no question that Jerusalem is the city of David. God has watched over Jerusalem for millennia, for 3,000 years," said Oliner. "This is the most important city in the world." 

"Do you pray for the peace of Jerusalem?" Ross asked Noa. "Do you believe you'll get an answer to that prayer?"

"I hope so," she said, "otherwise, I wouldn't pray." 

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