On June 5, 1967, In the run-up to the hostilities, there were public calls for the physical destruction of the world’s only Jewish state and the annihilation of its people. Was the 1,900-year-old dream of restored Jewish sovereignty in the biblical homeland about to be crushed in a genocidal torrent of blood and devastation?
Could another horrific campaign of mass murder of Jews be repeated only 22 years after the defeat of Nazism?
Such fears were not unrealistic or a case of collective paranoia:
On May 27, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared: “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel.”
Five days later, Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Aref told his air force pilots: “Our clear aim (is) wiping Israel from the map.”On the same day, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s chairman, Ahmed Shukairy, described the impending fate of Israeli Jews: “I estimate that none will survive.”Egypt was on alert, expecting an Israeli attack to come at dawn. However, the Israelis delayed and did not strike until 8:15 AM (Egyptian time), when most Egyptian pilots were at breakfast and Egyptian commanders were caught in traffic.A commander of Egypt’s Malis air base, Brigadier General Tahsin Zaki said,
I heard the noise of jet planes, at the very same moment, and I looked toward the direction of the noise and saw two gray Super Mystere planes. They dropped two bombs at the beginning of the runway. Two additional planes were behind them, and they dropped two bombs in the middle of the runway, and the last two planes dropped two bombs at the end of the runway. After a couple of minutes, the whole runway was bombed. It was a complete surprise. (Michael Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 175)
Within the first hour of the Six-Day War, Israel had detroyed 204 Egyptian aircraft. An hour after the air force struck, Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Defense Minister, gave the order for ground troops to enter Sinai.
By 10:00 AM, Egypt was releasing false reports trumpeting their success. Although Israel and the UN both assured King Hussein of Jordan that Jordan would not be attacked, Hussein responded to Egypt’s false reports and authorized Jordanian attacks against Israel. These attacks intensified by 11:15 AM and in the early afternoon, Israeli planes effectively destroyed Jordan’s air force. Heavy fighting on the ground in Jerusalem and the West Bank continued throughout the day.
During the afternoon, Israel also targeted the Syrian air force, and in eighty-two sorties destroyed two thirds of Syria’s planes. By the end of the day, 400 Arab aircraft had been destroyed. This included nearly 300 Egyptian planes and thirteen bases. Nineteen Israeli planes were destroyed on that day.
After six days of fighting, Israel had achieved a stunning victory, capturing the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, and, perhaps most importantly, East Jerusalem–including the Old City. This dramatic victory had an enormous impact on Jewish communities around the world. Jewish pride swelled and international funds for Israel were generously increased.
Between June 5 and June 10, a beleaguered and surrounded Israel achieved a stunning military victory over its foes and gained full control of the divided city of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank of the Jordan River.
But the war also intensified profound religious feelings among many Jews as well as evangelical Christians who saw Israel’s “miraculous” deliverance from destruction as part of God’s messianic plan of redemption.
Before 1967, it was believed such extraordinary events could take place only at the End of Days, but now they appeared in clear sight and close at hand. After centuries of fervent Jewish prayer and yearning, the reunited city of Jerusalem, including the revered Western Wall and Temple Mount, was “redeemed.” Israel’s victory was a rejection of the Roman Empire’s ancient anti-Jewish boast “Hierosolyma est perdita,” or “Jerusalem is lost.”
After the Six-Day War, religious fervor took a different form among evangelical Christians and is reflected in Hal Lindsey’s 1970 best-seller, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” which focuses on Israel’s victory as a necessary precursor to Jesus’ Second Coming. In Lindsey’s book, Jews are merely actors in a Christian, not a Jewish, religious drama and the book presents a case of Christian triumphalism.
The war also had a lasting impact at the other end of the Jewish religious spectrum. Even for secular Jews who did not share a sense of redemption, Israel became much more than a heroic nation-state that successfully defeated its enemies. Now, millions of Jews perceived Israel as a vital component of their ethnic and personal identity.
The Six-Day War has permanently impacted contemporary Judaism and Christianity. Orthodox and Reform Jews have both made Israel an integral part of their religious thinking, albeit in sharply different ways. And evangelical Christianity’s continuing messianic fervor for Israel has not abated. In their quest for peace, political and diplomatic leaders who fail to recognize these realities do so at their own peril.
MBS189 The Modern State of Israel in Bible Prophecy
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MBS080 The Theology of Israel: A Study of Romans 9-11
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MBS018 Israel in the Messianic Kingdom
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MBS008 The Arab States in Prophecy
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MBS005 How to Destroy the Jews
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MBS004 The Campaign of Armageddon
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MBS003 The Basis of the Second Coming of the Messiah
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