Wars typically unfold over months, years, and even decades. Some of the more vicious wars in history lasted across multiple centuries. In 1967 history shifted dramatically over the course of a mere six days!! Not only was the war inexplicably swift but these six days contained two separate but remarkable outcomes.
The first miracle surrounded the shocking military triumph in a war in which the State of Israel had absolutely no hope for victory. The six-day war has undergone terrible historical revisionism as if it were a war aimed at territorial acquisition; The political disagreement surrounding the settlements during the past fifty years has recast this combat as a war regarding “territories” or the acquisition of land. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 1967 General Nasser, then President of Egypt, consolidated his army with the Jordanian army, and threatened to literally hurl the Jews into the Sea. Twenty two years after the conclusion of the Holocaust this threat resonated with great dread. Though the state had already existed for nineteen years, Israel had faced severe food rationing, diplomatic isolation and numerous wars of attrition during these initial fledgling stages of her development. During the months prior to June 1967 as inevitable war loomed, the country literally feared a national disaster as women and children were sent back to the USA and the UK for safety while tens of thousands of graves were prepared in local parks in anticipation of massive casualties. Generals are generally tasked with thinking “outside the box” and imagining every possible wartime scenario- as farfetched as it may be; as the heat of battle doesn’t allow calm consideration of military strategy, all options must be conceived prior to the chaos of war. In their wildest dreams, Israeli generals didn’t imagine the resounding victory which ultimately unfolded. Not only was a nightmare scenario avoided, but Israel achieved an unthinkable military triumph as well as an invaluable psychological deterrent against continued Arab attacks. Additionally, the military victory reinforced Israel’s diplomatic position and in particular launched Israel’s crucial strategic relationship with the USA. Without even mentioning Yerushalayim, the astounding military victory is sufficient cause for celebration and gratitude to G-d.
Of course the events of that June became even more resonant due to our national return to Jerusalem and to the Biblical hinterland. Jewish history unfolded in a swath of land stretching from Shechem in the North, snaking its way through Jerusalem, winding through Beit Lechem and Chevron to the South and terminating in the southern city of Be’ersheva. Returning to this Biblical corridor sent ripples throughout the international community. Our return in 1948 wasn’t as internationally resonant. In fact, our return in 1948 “solved” the practical refugee crisis and soothed the world’s guilty conscience regarding the Holocaust. When Jews returned to Yerushalayim however, and to the hinterland of Jewish history in Judea and Samaria, the world took notice:”shamu amim yirgazun” (the world trembled) at this reunion between Jews and Yerushalayim and the reintroduction of the Jewish people into History. The events of 1967 signaled the restoration of historical relevance to the Jews and an indication that history was beginning to hurdle forward. After close to 2000 years operating on the margins of history, Jews were returned- front and center- to the historical stage.
Many nations celebrate our return, realizing that it foretells the return of G-d into our world. Others are violently opposed to Jewish presence in their restored homeland. Either way, Jewish presence in Yerushalayim isn’t a “neutral” event. When G-d’s chosen people return to the site in which humanity itself was created which is also the location of history’s conclusion, the entire world “notices”, subconsciously sensing the connotations of this return. We believe in metaphysical forces which drive human history which can’t be traced by the human eye. Our staunch opponents may not articulate their opposition in these historical terms choosing instead geopolitical narratives, which cast us as colonialist or imperialist squatters. However, the anger surrounding Jews in Yerushalayim is a direct outgrowth of the historical connotations of our return.
To be sure, it wasn’t just the international community which took notice. “boneh yerushalayim Hashem nidchei yisrael yechanes” (G-d constructs Yerushalayim and gathers scattered Jews). Between 1948 and 1967 limited waves of Jews voyaged to the fledgling state; the return to Yerushalayim and to the Biblical corridor stoked the Jewish imagination and launched both mass Aliyah as well as large scale tourism and visitation. Relatedly, millions of Russian Jews whose identity had been emasculated by the Communist regime rediscovered their Jewish heritage and were literally magnetized to their homeland. The second wave of our redemption –punctuated by the great miracles of the 6-day war- amassed Jews back to their homeland while propelling the struggle to achieve internationally-recognized sovereignty in the entire land of Jewish history.
The ripples of the six-day war migrated easterly as well. When Jews returned to their ancient city, Jewish pride soared and our sense of destiny ascended, each of which powered phenomenal Jewish growth across the globe. There is more Torah being studied in the modern world than at any point since the First Temple Era. This expansion, coupled with the general growth in religious observance, is a direct product of the return to Yerushalayim. When Jews sense national pride or “komemiyut” we express it through renewed religious vigor, Torah commitment, and communal progress. Jewish communities in the Western World are dramatically more developed and resourced than during the pre-1967 era. This is also a product of the great return to Yerushalayim.