In May 1967 I was working in Haifa as an au pair, looking
after three small children. When the emergency started I went to Kibbutz
Tel Itzhak as a volunteer, as I had friends there. The fact that the kibbutz
was near the border with Jordan, at Israel's narrow "waist" (about
eight miles from the border to the sea) didn't impinge on my consciousness.
I stayed with my friend Michal (Mavis), whose husband had been called up.
The kibbutz, like the rest of Israel, wasn't prepared. Most people didn't have air raid shelters. I remember helping to dig a trench outside my cousin's home, in the industrial zone of Haifa Bay. My cousin Itzhak was due to sit his Bagrut (approx A level) exams, and I took him through various points of English grammar as we dug in the sand.
The kibbutz didn't have shelters either, just hastily dug trenches, as Michal mentions. During Monday, June 5, there were warnings throughout the day. I came in for my shift at washing up, carrying a small radio, at around 8 am. It wasn't clear at first whether there were just skirmishes, or if this was actually war.
Very early on, the Iraqi plane Michal mentions came in low right over the kibbutz dining room. Like idiots, we went out to look at it. We couldn't believe an enemy plane had come over so soon after the outbreak of hostilities. A friend of mine in the Israel Air Force had claimed that enemy planes would never be able to fly over Israel and I remember thinking "so much for that".
Every time the siren went, we would dash out from the kibbutz kitchens and make for the store-room underneath. I remember finishing a coffee first, and saying I wasn't going to let Nasser come between me and a good cup of coffee. I can't believe that now, but when you are so young, you feel invulnerable!
Boys from the kibbutz heard their call signs on the radio and came in to the kitchen to get packets of sandwiches from their mothers or wives before going off to the front. We could here firing - knowing it was probably from nearby Kalkilya. I remember thinking how curious it was to be hearing shots fired in anger, but still to be carrying on doing the washing up.
We didn't know the Israel Air Force had virtually destroyed all air opposition and that night, listening to the BBC, we heard Egyptian claims of victory. We didn't believe those, but we didn't believe Israel's claims either. Moshe Dayan came on saying "We are a small people, but a courageous one", and I went to sleep on the floor, in my clothes, expecting more air raid warnings, listening to Psalms being sung on Israel radio.
The next morning I heard "Israel has achieved air superiority" and I thought those were the most blessed words I'd ever heard in my life.
Michal, originally from Ilford, still lives on the kibbutz
and has brought up her three children there. She wasn't too happy about
being reminded of the war and writes: ... It doesn't seem possible
that it is already 40 years since we slept in Vushka and Pesach's house
and ran in the middle of the night to the ditch with them and Rouga and
Baruch Lavie, their neighbours, to shelter from the planes. Just writing
this sends a cold chill up my back.
We don't need to read about it, that's for sure. Running to the basement of the kitchen with the Iraqi plane about a hands' length from our heads (it crashed in the Abick factory thinking it was Netanya).
- Rona and Michal