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1967: Memories of the Arab-Israeli war

The second Arab-Israeli war, also known as the six-day war, began when Israel launched a massive pre-emptive strike on three fronts.

Israeli forces took land from Syria, Egypt and Jordan, hoping to create a security buffer zone, and thus changed the whole nature of the Middle East conflict.

Here is a selection of your memories from that time.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received.

We covered the subject at school "current events" in Switzerland. I remember being all excited, bringing various newspaper and magazine articles and photos to school.

A tiny nation, attacked and out-numbered by numerous other nations, defeating the enemy with the help of God. This was a true miracle!
Albert Ruegg, New Zealand

Israel was surrounded and threatened with extinction, and was determined to hold on to a country nine miles wide at its thinnest point.

So she fought five nations determined to destroy her - and won miraculously. This was not aggression, but self-defense, and Israel remains predominantly obligated to defend her citizens against Arab suicide-bombers' aggression, even now.
Freda Saul, USA

I have vivid personal memories of how people reacted in the UK when Israel was under attack in the Six Day War.

People of all religions were so supportive of tiny little Israel, yet again fighting for survival, attacked by the mighty power of the surrounding Arab states.

People stopped me to say they were praying and there was universal rejoicing when Israel overcame all the odds to emerge victorious.

Sadly nothing has changed except perception of Israel. It remains a tiny little country the size of Wales, still surrounded by a huge Arab empire that makes it sound as if they are under attack from the Jewish state.

Public perception is that Israel is this huge country and great force, when in fact she seems to survive on miracles.
Joy Wolfe, UK

I was serving in the US Navy in June of 1967 on board the aircraft carrier USS America in the Mediterranean Sea.

Due to the building tension between the Arabs and the Israelis we cancelled port visits to Beirut and Cannes in France and went to "steam" just off the coast of Israel.

We never visited those ports.

At that time there were Soviet air squadrons based in Egypt and no one knew for sure what they would do in the event of war.

Then hostilities broke out.

As the days wore on it was evident that Israel was headed for a huge victory.

But there was some apprehension on board because of the steady harassment of Soviet "trawlers" attempting to interfere with our "flight-ops" and also the "wild card" Soviet air squadrons in Egypt.

In retrospect the Soviets wisely stayed on the ground.


" Did they all think that Israel would simply sit back and await its own destruction? "

Richard, USA

Then a few days into the war an American naval vessel the USS Liberty was accidentally and brutally attacked by Israeli aircraft with tragic loss of American lives.

As I recall most everyone on my ship was somewhat surprised that a tiny Israel could attack three major Arab countries simultaneously and win.

Looking back at this affair one is "hard pressed" to figure the thinking of Nasser and also Jordan and Syria.

Did they all think that Israel would simply sit back and await its own destruction?

For better or worse it is now established in the Arab mind that Israel will not just "sit back".
Richard, USA

What you call "re-uniting Jerusalem" is better described as "completing the occupation of Jerusalem".

Israel, the only country in the world today with institutionalized racism, expelled more native Palestinians out of the occupied lands to replace them with foreign Jews.

Israel converted the multi-cultural city into a city for one "good" race with occasional access to other "not so good races".
Omar, Occupied Territories

I was brought up in an area of North London which still has a large Jewish population. I had Jewish friends at school.

When you are six years old religion doesn't matter that much.

I do remember, however, feeling a great sense of shame that the Arabs were beaten so easily by the Israelis in the Six Day War.

Once I was beaten up by Jewish boys for supporting the Arabs in the conflict.

When I was 11 I went to a school with a large number of Jewish boys.

On my first day I met the boy who turned out to be my best friend until I left that school at 18. He was a Reform Jew. Once, during the 1973 war we both decided that although we wouldn't change our respective views on whom we supported our friendship was too precious to be fractured by events thousands of miles away.

He is still my friend and I am grateful for that.
Navaid, UK

I was in India working for the government and thought the country in question would be crushed. But in the first air strike on Egypt they turned the tables. Well planned job.
Harcharan Singh Mehta, Canada

I was one of three Jewish girls at my school in Liverpool on June 5th 1967.

We didn't go into the Christian assembly but when our friends came out of assembly that day, there was a most unusual buzz.


" The six-day war changed the perspective of Anglo-Jewry forever. "

Dr Irene Lancaster, UK

In this rather traditional school, where politics and religion were never discussed, the Anglican head teacher had asked the assembly to "pray for Israel which is about to be destroyed".

Thus started my life-long interest in Israel. The six-day war changed the perspective of Anglo-Jewry forever.

Thinking about it today and how an Anglican and rather reserved Englishwoman could have made a statement like that, which was to prove nearly prophetic, still affects me.

In retrospect, 1967 was a Golden Age in which to be brought up in this country.

It was a time in which being Jewish wasn't a crime or something to be laughed at, but something to be admired and supported.

It was a time in which history was taught as a subject which transcended opinion and where recognition could come from the most unexpected quarters.

Because of this head teacher I have never quite lost my faith in Christianity, despite its partisan and quite hostile approach to Jews and Judaism today.

My feelings on the 42nd year after the six-day war is that in 30 years there will be no more practising Jews left in Britain, as we are not the flavour of the month any more, and other - louder - voices from both sides of the religious and political spectrums are drowning us out.

To me that Head Teacher represented the "small, slight voice" of reason and wisdom - and for that I will always be grateful, as it - more than anything else - has made me what I am.
Dr Irene Lancaster, UK

If only there hadn't been so much outside support for Israel during the war. There might actually be true peace in the Middle East today.
Neelan, US

I was a junior high school student in St. John's Newfoundland. The story came to my sight when the Canadian peace-keeping force pulled out of Sinai - I think it was 18 or 19 May.

Some of my classmates had uncles or cousins in this UN force, and everyone said to me that I should not be worried.

But my parents and their friends were terrified and were glued to the TVs and radios, I took the advice of my classmates and skipped along.

But on 24 May Nasser announced the closing of the Straits of Tiran, and I knew that something had really changed that made it ominous.

I knew that for all their hullabaloo, the great maritime powers wouldn't do a thing to stop this very strategic action, and that Israel's survival was now at real risk.

It is simple now to look back and wonder what was Nasser thinking, but in those days the peril was tangible, and until 9 June it didn't change. Of course the rest is history.
Larry Riteman, Canada

Unlike the UN delegates of that time, most Americans were filled with admiration for Israel's military prowess in June 1967.

Americans didn't concern themselves with the fate of the West Bank and Gaza - they thought Israel had fought and won a war that threatened their survival as a nation.
Rick, USA

In the days immediately before the war, the UK government said it was not supporting either side. But it was.


" I was stupid enough to swallow the official line which amounted to "poor little Israel can't defend itself". "

Jamie, UK/Dominican Republic

Convoys of British army trucks took ammunition for Israeli Centurion tanks from CAD Longtown to RAF Waddington where it was loaded into planes bound for Israel flown by crews of various nationalities, the white/silver planes had no registrations.

I was officer in charge of four such round-the-clock convoys and ate with eight such crews on the then V-bomber airbase.

I was stupid enough to swallow the official line which amounted to "poor little Israel can't defend itself".

Since then I've become very pro-Palestinian.
Jamie, UK/Dominican Republic

I was working as a secretary for Esso Standard Oil of New Jersey in Tripoli, Libya from 1966 to 1970.

The news broke about the war during the morning while I was at the office.

The Libyan staff left immediately and the Americans tried to carry on as normal.

The British secretaries did likewise.

At lunchtime however we had to barricade ourselves in the office block as a huge and angry mob of Libyans took to the streets and marched towards the oil company offices.

Scary, of course, but we were able to exit later in the day.

The British Embassy suggested we stayed together in larger groups at given centres with our essentials only in one small suitcase, and await developments.

The Americans flew out immediately from Wheelus Airbase just outside Tripoli.

The British were told that if the situation deteriorated a ship would be sent from Alexandria for us!

Most of us moved into friends' houses outside the town centre and after a week we moved back to our homes and continued to do what we could at work, minus of course most of the people we worked for.

The Italian Jews living in Libya were targeted and one or two people were caught up in isolated instances of mob rule.

After the war lots of non-Libyan residents decided to leave the country for good and settle in Rome, where I caught up with friends eventually en route to England for annual leave.

Some time afterwards Colonel Gaddafi staged a coup - but that's another story!
Doreen Urquhart, Scotland

I was 19 and outraged at the Arabs', especially Colonel Nasser's, attitude to Israel.

Further outraged when he closed the Gulf of Aqaba. I felt Israel had no alternative, but was fearful they would be crushed by the Arabs.

I went to the Israeli Embassy in London to voice my support for them.


" I felt Israel had no alternative, but was fearful they would be crushed by the Arabs. "

Rudi, UK

I was amazed, exhilarated, to find they had triumphed.

In that phase Nasser had been very belligerent. The Arabs, as so often, believed their own propaganda.

I still feel the Arab governments have used and continue to use the Palestinian people as pawns ever since 1948.
Rudy Francis, UK


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