June 5 Anniversary

What is special about June 5?  It is the anniversary of the Six-Day War of 1967, that was one of the most amazing days of my life and in all of history.  Those who were not alive then cannot understand the doom Jews felt before June 5 and how it was instantly transformed into a sense of joy and relief.

Israel was and still is surrounded by hostile Arab countries, that in 1948 and again in 1956 tried unsuccessfully to destroy the Jewish State.   In 1967, Pres. Nasser of Egypt, in alliance with Syria under Pres. Assad and Jordan under King Hussein, decided to jointly invade Israel from all sides and destroy it and the Jewish population with it.   They believed their own propaganda, that the Arabs out-numbering the Jews by at least 10:1 were invincible, that they could not lose and because of their hysteria discounted any possibility that the Jews could withstand them and survive.

For weeks before the epic struggle began, Nasser started to take ominous steps.  He closed the Straits of Hormuz, thus cutting off all ties to the southern Israeli port city of Eilat.   He ordered the UN to remove its peace-keeping forces from Sinai, put there after the 1956 Sinai campaign, and they left peremptorily.   Pres. Johnson said he would organize a US-led flotilla of ships to break the illegal Egyptian blockade of Eilat, but in the end no-one came.  The Jews of Israel were alone facing vastly greater Arab military forces.  But, the Israel Air Force, that had superiority in the skies, had organized a plan for precisely this kind of siege.   While PM Levi Eshkol of Israel dithered for weeks over what to do, while Jews around the world feared another Holocaust, the Head of the IAF Gen Mordechai Hod began to put the plan into action.

By June 4 the Israeli Cabinet decided that they could not wait any longer for the anticipated Arab onslaught.   Early in the morning on June 5 Israeli planes flew out low over the Mediterranean, turned and approached Egypt from the north and west.  They attacked the Egyptian airfields where the Egyptian air force planes, mainly Russian-supplied Migs, were waiting on the tarmac to be flown to attack Tel Aviv.  All the planes were destroyed before they could rise and all the runways were also rendered useless.  A similar attack occurred in Syria and Jordan.  In a  few hours all the Arab air forces that were supposed to be attacking Israel were destroyed.   After this the outcome was inevitable, the Arab armies attacked, but with no air cover they were totally vulnerable to the IAF and were pulverized.  The war lasted only six days until the Arabs capitulated.

The outcome was spectacular.  The Arab armies were decimated, the IAF had complete control of the air, Israel had once again survived a joint Arab onslaught and in fact had a historic victory.  Only once again did the Arabs think they could attack Israel and destroy it, and that was in 1973, in the Yom Kippur war, when they attacked secretly, when they had surprise on their side, when they had huge amounts of Soviet-supplied armaments, including surface to air missiles and anti-tank missiles, and yet the IDF defeated them all again.  That was the end of it, Pres. Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel and King Hussein followed some years later.  Syria never signed any treaty, but who cares, Syria hardly exists any more.  June 5, 1967, was the beginning of the end for Arab pretense that they could actually destroy Israel.

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