Six-Day War remains a source of Jewish pride

For those old enough to remember Israel’s Six-Day War, it’s hard to believe 40 years have come and gone. The exultation of those breathless days in June is as palpable today as it was in 1967.

In six days, Israel took on the combined military power of Syria, Egypt and Jordan, with support from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and crushed them. On this 40th anniversary, we stand with Israel to remember the fallen and to celebrate one of the greatest military victories in modern history.

This week’s j. looks back at the Six-Day War, its origin, meaning and heroes. Staff writer Joe Eskenazi spoke with local veterans of the war, and came back with their remarkable and inspiring tales of heroism. Staff writer Stacey Palevsky met with Jews from Arab lands, and reports on their experiences.

Beyond the personal stories, the war has had a lasting impact on Israel, shaping the modern state as no other event since the 1948 War of Independence.

Arguably, the Six-Day War has led to many of Israel’s intractable problems, particularly the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. But history has confirmed that the Six-Day War was a battle for survival, and Israel dispatched its enemies with uncommon skill.

Few in the Jewish community would deny that Israel’s recovery of Jerusalem — including the Old City — was a miracle. Who can forget the iconic photo of three Israeli paratroopers standing awestruck before the newly liberated Kotel?

This anniversary also gives us an opportunity to state unequivocally: Jerusalem must remain the eternal, undivided capital of Israel. There is plenty of room for negotiation when it comes to forging a lasting peace, but on Jerusalem, Israel must remain firm.

At the same time, this milestone also serves as a reminder, especially to Israel’s detractors, that the Jewish state can be magnanimous in victory. Only a few years after capturing the Sinai in the Six-Day War, Israel returned that region to Egypt as part of a peace agreement that stands inviolate to this day.

Israel’s presence in the West Bank remains the most problematic of the war’s consequences. We need not rehash the political, economic, demographic, military and moral issues raised by the occupation. But Israel understands the stakes and, in time, will resolve this festering problem.

Meanwhile, we rejoice at Israel’s spectacular victory 40 years ago. If nothing else, it proved that the pluckiest country in the world had the right stuff when it mattered. The war, like the Western Wall it liberated, will remain a source of Jewish pride for all time.