I remember very clearly the events leading up to the Six-Day War; at the time I was a teenager living in, of all places, Bangor North Wales. I remember the incremental build up of tension, and the feeling of dread that once again the Jews were facing another catastrophe. The odds seemed insurmountable. One picture that has stuck in mind is the contrast between the seemingly smart disciplined Egyptian soldiers and the seemingly laid back, almost scruffy Israeli soldiers - how deceptive appearances can be. I remember the joy at the swift and stunning victory and the disbelief that the Old City of Jerusalem was once again in Jewish hands. I recall being told by a friend of my parents how when she had visited Jerusalem two years earlier, all she could do was peer over the wall dividing the city to look on the Old City (funny how people forget or never knew about the wall that the Jordanians built dividing the city and how Jews were excluded from their holy places).
I remember the overwhelming pro-Israel sentiment. Forty years on and looking from today's perspective, it seems that that sympathy was generated by the fact that once again the Jews were victims and that is the role that we should play, Jews as victors makes others feel uncomfortable. Is it too harsh to say that we can only garner approval when we are being shoveled into gas chambers? I remember a time when even Vanessa Redgrave and the BBC liked Israel; when Jewish students were not afraid to advertise their support for Israel on campuses in the UK and the States; when journalists who are supposed to be impartial did not vote to boycott Israel; when trendies and luvvies like Alan Rickman did not demonize and vilify Israel and when people making the statement, "I believe that Israel has the right to exist" did not believe they were saying something ground-breaking.
I remember the sheer pride that we did not have to rely on anyone else for our safety and survival, it was our responsibility and we were able to shoulder it. In 1945 if you had told a Jew in Auschwitz that twenty two years later a Jewish army defending an independent Jewish state would win against the might of three Arab armies, he would of course said it was an impossibility. From the nightmare of Auschwitz to the Six Day War victory in less than a generation.
But most of all I remember the hope that that victory brought, the fact that now Israel had a proper bargaining position and the feeling that her borders were 'secure'. Who would have thought that there is nothing that Israel can do to bring her Arab neighbours to the negotiating table, that forty years later any attempt to defend her citizens and borders would be deemed disproportionate, that terrorists who wish to ethnically cleanse all Jews from the Middle East are lauded and supported by academic, journalistic and governmental institutions in this country, that the mayor of the City of London can publicly state that the creation of the State of Israel was a mistake; how laughably naive that hope now seems. What is obvious now is that we really only won the battle and not the war.
But hope is perhaps all that we can hang on to. Remembering those terrifying
days leading up to the Six-Day War in June 1967 when the situation appeared
bleak and unwinnable and Israel achieved the impossible and survived we
have to believe that Israel will once again survive her current embattlement.
- Ruth Leveson, LondonBACK to Diaspora Recollections