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Six Days in June

They say that if you can remember the Sixties you weren’t really there but there are some events which occurred in that decade that even those who were there will never forget. The assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam war and Woodstock, the space race and the moon landings immediately spring to mind. Many of us who lived through that turbulent, swinging decade recall another event that took place exactly forty years ago this month. At the beginning of the Summer of Love – as young people in the West called on the world to make love not war – the state of Israel, which was itself a teenager having been born in 1948, became embroiled for six days in a war for its very existence
In the weeks before the conflict President Nasser of Egypt announced that his country had been in a state of war with Israel “since 1948". On 30th May, after he and King Hussein of Jordan signed a defence pact, Nasser announced, “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel... while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation… the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived.”

Just five days later, on 4th June 1967, President Abdur Rahman Aref of Iraq joined the military alliance stating, "Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map". The following day, in the face of a clear and present danger, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. After three days the Jordanian forces surrendered, the next day the Egyptian army conceded defeat and the following day, 132 hours and 30 minutes after the war began, Syrian forces surrendered.

By any reckoning, Israel’s victory against such overwhelming odds was an astonishing achievement and the Six Day War remains the most dramatic and significant of all Israel’s conflicts with the Arab nations. By the end of the war Israeli forces had captured the Sinai, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. Israel had conquered enough territory to more than triple the size of the area it controlled and the victory enabled Israel to unify Jerusalem.

Israel’s victory also resulted in another celebratory holiday being added to the Jewish calendar, the second in less than twenty years. Since Judah the Maccabee delivered Judea from the Syrians and purified the temple during the inter-testamental period, no event in the life of the nation had been great enough to merit an addition to the annual cycle of festivals. Suddenly, more than 2,000 years after the first Hanukkah celebrations, two new holidays were added, both in the Jewish month of Iyar: on the fifth day of the month Yom Ha'atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day – and, on the 28th, Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day. The first commemorates the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 and the second the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War.

“These were epic events”, says Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain. “No nation in history has ever survived a two thousand year exile to begin again in its ancestral homeland.”

The significance of Rabbi Sacks’ observation should not be minimised. It astonishes me that some otherwise erudite Christian scholars, who make much of the absolute sovereignty of God, view the modern state of Israel as though its creation was simply the end result of power politics. Providence is a difficult book to read but can we really believe that God was not behind the re-establishment of Israel, especially in view of the fact that time and again she has triumphed over bigger and more powerful enemies who are committed to nothing less than her utter destruction?

The fact that Israel, in spite of all its shortcomings, has survived as a nation should assure us that God has not finished with the Jewish people, that he is faithful to his covenants and promises and that he has more in store for that people than even the land. Israel’s destiny in Messiah is to inherit nothing less than the kingdom of God.

Mike Moore
This article first appeared in the June 2007 edition of the Herald

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