Soon after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents wanted to erect a monument to the Jordanian soldiers who had died in the battle for the city, and Meron Benvenisti thought he saw an opportunity.
Benvenisti, the new Israeli administrator over Jerusalem’s eastern sector, knew that there was formidable opposition to the idea among the Jews of the recently unified city. Some said it was as if relatives of World War II German Luftwaffe pilots killed in bombing raids over England were demanding a memorial in Trafalgar Square.
But Benvenisti allowed a simple marble obelisk to be built to commemorate the Jordanian soldiers who fought and died defending what had been the Arab half of the city. He hoped that it would help reduce intercommunal hatred and consolidate coexistence.
Several years later, Jerusalem’s Palestinians tried to erect a second memorial to the 1967 war. The same Benvenisti ordered it torn down.
“You see, I can be ruthless as well,” he says today. His actions were “a question of timing and the eclectic decision-making of a bureaucrat faced with communal strife,” he says.
For the ordinary people who live here, both Arab and Jew, consistency has become a luxury since the watershed of the 1967 war, and unity a myth.
“One remains within the system only to become increasingly tangled in one’s own compromises,” Benvenisti says.
Left an Imprint
Twenty years later, the Six-Day War, as the 1967 hostilities quickly became known, has left an imprint on both the people and the politics of the Middle East second only to that of the birth of Israel itself. The bloodletting lasted only from June 5 to 10, but it changed the terms of reference of the Arab-Israeli conflict and dramatically reshaped the internal dynamics of at least four Middle East countries: Syria, Jordan, Egypt and, most of all, Israel.
In those six days, Israel’s armed forces overran and captured territory four times the size of the entire pre-1967 state. Previously obscure geographical entities called the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip suddenly became the focus of worldwide attention.
Some saw in the war’s outcome the groundwork for settling the drawn-out Arab-Israeli conflict. “Land for peace” was the answer, they thought; Israel could barter conquered territory in return for peace with its neighbors.
But that worked only with Egypt, and only after another bloody war in 1973 enabled an exceptional Arab leader named Anwar Sadat to make a dramatic trip to Jerusalem, olive branch in hand. After concluding a peace treaty with Cairo, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula. But the West Bank, formerly ruled by Jordan, is now home to more than 60,000 determined Jewish settlers. And Israel effectively annexed the Golan Heights in 1981.
Thus the 1967 war’s results, viewed from the distance of a generation, have been mixed.
The war set the stage for the only Arab-Israeli peace treaty to date. But it also fueled a nationalistic-messianic movement in Israel that has gained so much political power that the possibility of any similar deal with Jordan or Syria appears remote.
It reunified the Holy City, Jerusalem. But it sowed the seeds of a deep political split within Israeli society. Last week, the country mounted extensive celebrations to mark 20 years, according to the Hebrew calendar, of having a united, historic capital. But it did so under a “national unity” government so paralyzed on the issue of peace that it has made inaction a cornerstone of its coalition agreement.
As for the Palestinians, they shared in the humiliation of the Arab defeat. In the long run, however, the war has strengthened their sense of national identity and brought them an international recognition far beyond anything they enjoyed previously.
Most of all, because it resulted in more than 1 million Palestinian residents of the captured territories falling under Israeli rule, the war refocused the Arab-Israeli conflict onto its original and most intractable element--the rival claims of two peoples to the same land--and onto the internal conflicts that still rage in Benvenisti and in so many others, Arab and Jew, who must cope daily with an essentially intolerable situation.
PROLOGUE: The War Clouds Gather
Few could have foreseen the course ahead as the war clouds gathered in that spring of 1967. In April, Syria stepped up its shelling of Israel’s northern settlements, and Israeli and Syrian warplanes clashed in a series of dogfights. In May, the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser demanded the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeeping troops from the Sinai, ordered Egyptian forces across the Suez Canal, and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba despite Israeli warnings that such an action would be deemed an act of war.
Nasser and Jordan’s King Hussein announced a mutual defense pact on May 30, confronting a badly outmanned Israel with a united Arab front on the south and east.
“Their (Arab) spirit was the spirit of victory. And our morale was very, very low,” recalls Uzi Narkiss, then the general in charge of defending Israel’s central sector.
As Israel mobilized its armed forces, an unknown soprano in their ranks, Shuli Natan, performed a new song expressing the historical Israeli yearning for “Jerusalem of Gold.”
On the Jordanian-ruled West Bank, Palestinians believed that the time was at hand when they would reclaim the homes from which they either had fled or were evicted by Jewish forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The West Bankers had no weapons; Hussein, concerned about a potential Palestinian threat to his rule, saw to that. But they had faith in their Arab brethren.
There were large demonstrations in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Nablus, and Ahmed Shukairy, the first head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, boasted: “We will wipe Israel off the face of the map, and no Jew will remain alive.”
The late Levi Eshkol, then Israel’s prime minister, went on national radio to reassure his people. But, suffering from a cold and without his reading glasses, he stumbled so badly through his speech that it only deepened the nation’s unease. Then military Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin collapsed from nicotine poisoning and had to be replaced for 48 hours.
In Tel Aviv, Israeli youngsters were pulled out of school to dig bomb shelters, black out windows and fill sandbags. Doron Galezer, then a 15-year-old high school student, found the preparations for war “exciting.”
“We felt very important,” he recalls.
In Washington, Julian Landau, research director for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, scrambled around Capitol Hill trying to promote support for a series of international moves to avert war.
“Everybody forgets, I think, that our reaction abroad at that time was total and absolute fear that Israel would be destroyed,” he says.
On June 1, Eshkol announced that Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed Israeli hero of the 1956 Sinai campaign, had been appointed defense minister. The move provided an important boost to national morale, but from an Israeli viewpoint, the outlook still appeared grim.
Former student Doron Galezer has been slowly dropping out of Israeli life since the Six-Day War while Julian Landau has settled into it.
Galezer got involved with a now-defunct postwar movement known as the New Israeli Left, which demonstrated in the late 1960s and early 1970s for a more active peace policy.
Medically deferred from military service in a country that places enormous importance on a man’s army record, Galezer felt his isolation deepen with the onset of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He would intentionally wait until dark to go home “because I didn’t want the neighbors to see me. All their sons were fighting in the war.”
Then, at the funeral of a high-school classmate killed in the fighting, someone called him a “traitor.” He did not go to any more funerals.
Still, Galezer says, he felt himself part of the Israeli political consensus until Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. But “the injustice” of that war “was so glaring that for the first time I thought the other side was right.”
Israel has now moved so far to the political right that Galezer says he is “left with no one to talk to.” He shuns politics, working as editor of the life-style section of a local newspaper. And a few weeks ago he asked friends in France about opportunities if he were to move there.
“I’m fed up,” he explains. “I want to go away for a while.”
Landau, a religious Zionist from Brooklyn, had been to Israel twice before the 1967 war, in 1952 and 1961. But it was not until after the war that he moved here, becoming part of an immigration wave that brought nearly 35,000 American Jews in five years.
“I, and I would say most people, didn’t come because Israel won the 1967 war,” Landau says. “We came because Israel after the 1967 war was something different than it had been before.”
One difference was a postwar economic boom whose impact was obvious to Landau on a “pilot trip” at the end of 1968.
“In 1952, certainly, and in 1961, too, this was a backward Middle East country,” he says. “But Israel at the end of 1968 was very much a Western country. It was in the full swing of being as close to America as it could be. So for me, as an American bringing a wife and family here, there was no reason not to come.”
Landau, his first wife and their four American-born children--they would have two more in Israel--arrived by ship on July 5, 1969, along with about 700 other American Jewish immigrants. That was more American immigrants than had arrived in most entire years up until that time.
About half those immigrants later returned to the United States. But Landau, who later was divorced and remarried, says the only time he ever considered going back was after his second-oldest son, Yair, was killed while serving in the army during the Lebanon invasion. It was, says Landau, an irrational reaction to a tragedy that he now sees as “ordained.”
After learning since childhood about the Jewish yearning for Zion, he says, he cannot see leaving. Besides, he adds, “This is now home--with all that implies, both good and bad.”
Yitzhak Rabin, the former chief of staff, launched a notable career in Labor Party politics, serving as prime minister in the mid-1970s and currently as defense minister.
Ahmed Shukairy resigned his PLO chairmanship in disgrace on Dec. 14, 1967, and died in Jordan in 1980.
DAY ONE: A Preemptive Strike
To Mordechai Hod, the Six-Day War ended at noon of the first day.
“I call it the Three-Hour War,” the former commander of the Israeli air force says.
At 7:30 a.m. on Monday, June 5, 1967, following a plan called Moked (Focus), developed years earlier and modified in the last few days to achieve maximum tactical surprise, Hod launched all but 12 of his 207 operational aircraft on a preemptive strike against Egypt.
The plan was risky. It left Israel’s cities almost without air cover. But it succeeded in destroying virtually the entire Egyptian air force on the ground and crippling its airfields. That afternoon, Israeli pilots would repeat their success against both the Jordanian and Syrian air forces, giving Israel command of the skies and ensuring its ultimate victory.
As Hod’s fighters were pummeling Egypt’s airfields, Israeli commanders in the south, reacting to the code words Red Sheet, stormed across the armistice lines into the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Using the United Nations as an intermediary, Prime Minister Eshkol sent a message to Jordan’s King Hussein telling him that if Jordan would stay out of the fighting, Israel would not attack his forces.
Nevertheless, Israel’s army had long had contingency plans for capturing Arab East Jerusalem and occupying the West Bank, plans that Mordechai (Motta) Gur, then commander of Israel’s paratroops, had just helped to review in the last two weeks. He felt, he recalls, that “something almost by nature will happen in Jerusalem. And I rather preferred that we would be ready.”
Journalist Michael Elkins, an American-born Israeli who had helped to smuggle arms to the fledgling Jewish state in 1948, was in the old government press office on Jaffa Road speaking by telephone to his editors at CBS Radio in New York when the first Jordanian shells fell on West Jerusalem. He climbed out on a window sill and started broadcasting what he could see.
Suddenly a burst of machine-gun fire splattered the
stone wall beneath his feet, and Elkins tumbled backward through the window, dropping the telephone.
“Mike! Mike! Are you all right?” the speaker in New York shouted as the phone went dead. Hearing a later replay of the broadcast in San Francisco, Elkins’ son Jonathan, then 11, “nearly died” until he heard his father’s voice come back on the line.
Later that day, Elkins pinned down his most memorable scoop of a 30-year radio journalism career. Based on tips from contacts nurtured since 1948 and snatches of conversations overheard in the Knesset (Parliament), Elkins prepared a script saying that although the fighting was still under way, Israel had already won the war because of its surprise air attack that morning.
This was at a time when the rest of the world and even most Israelis were hearing claims by Cairo radio that Tel Aviv was under heavy bombing attack and that the Arabs were scoring major victories on all fronts.
When he first told the military censor the gist of his story, Elkins recalls, the army man burst into tears of joy--then ruled that he could not broadcast it.
“I told him there are millions of Jews around the world who have heard the Egyptian broadcasts, and they’re crying out of fear. You’ve got to let me tell them,” Elkins remembers arguing. The censor relented.
While Elkins was scoring his journalistic coup in Jerusalem, a pregnant Miriam Levinger was sheltering in a trench near Tel Aviv with three small children, a jerrycan of water and some cookies.
Her husband, Moshe, had been mobilized a few days before, and she was left behind at Nehalim, the collective farming community on the coastal plain that Moshe served as rabbi. It was only about six miles from the Jordanian border at the time. A 1956 immigrant from the United States, Miriam was getting her first experience of war, and it was both uncomfortable and surreal.
“I felt like I was in some English war film,” she recalls. “We sat in the ditch until night.” Then, she says, she “couldn’t take it any more. I had to go in and lie down.”
By the next morning, “It was quiet. The birds were chirping. The war continued in the Sinai and in Jerusalem, but as far as we were concerned, the war was over. It lasted 24 hours exactly. It was the funniest thing in the world.”
On the Arab side, it was more confused than funny. Mustafa Kurd, 21, spent much of June 5 walking to Jerusalem with his oud, a lute-like instrument, slung over his shoulder.
A laborer and part-time musician, Kurd started the day in Nablus, where he joined scores of other Palestinians in a parade of pickup trucks headed for a nearby Jordanian army base in search of weapons. The soldiers told them to go home and leave the war to professionals, so Kurd set out for his family’s place in Jerusalem.
In Idna, near Hebron and only about two miles from the pre-1967 border, young Nayef Jiawe fired a few ineffectual rounds from an antiquated pistol at an Israeli Mirage jet fighter overhead, then sought shelter until the danger was past.
Ziad abu Zayyad was a 27-year-old Jordanian civil servant who says the start of the war triggered a big argument in his family. Outside their home in Bethany, on the road to Jericho and the Jordan River, they could see streams of frightened Palestinians fleeing eastward. His brother Zaydan wanted the family to join them, Abu Zayyad says. But his father, mindful of the plight of the 900,000 Palestinians who became refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, refused.
“If you want to leave, go!” he told Zaydan. “But I’m not ready to go to Jordan and live in a cave or a tent.”
Zaydan abu Zayyad did go to Jordan briefly after the war, but he returned and now teaches Arabic at a Jerusalem school. Khalil, youngest of the three brothers, was arrested by the Israeli military authorities in 1970 and spent 10 years in prison for illegal political activity. Released, he spent four more years under “town arrest,” restricted to Bethany, prohibited from being out of his home at night and required to report daily to the authorities. In 1984, he was deported to Jordan.
In August, 1967, Ziad abu Zayyad became the first Palestinian student at Israel’s Beit Haam ulpan (school) for teaching Hebrew to new immigrants. He did not want to be left deaf and dumb among the majority population, he explains.
He says he is as much a nationalist as his youngest brother but, as a lawyer and a journalist, he does his fighting with a pen. What makes him unique is that he does so from inside the “enemy” camp.
A year ago, Ziad abu Zayyad began publishing Gesher, the only Palestinian newspaper written in Hebrew. The name of the bi-weekly means “bridge.” It provides a predominantly Jewish readership of about 1,000 with news “that is not reported widely or accurately in the Israeli press.” It also prints information about Palestinian culture to show that “we are human beings and not only ‘terrorists.’ ”
Abu Zayyad says the newspaper is doing better than he expected, but still not well enough to pay for itself. Many Israeli book shops and newsstands refuse to distribute it, and he says that if he is unable to find outside financial support by the end of this year, he will fold his experiment.
Mordechai Hod retired from the air force five months before the 1973 Yom Kippur War and went into private business. Last April, he was named chairman of the giant Israeli Aircraft Industries.
DAY TWO: Tightening the Noose
By Tuesday, Israeli forces were sweeping across the Sinai, tightening the noose around East Jerusalem and capturing their first major West Bank cities, Janin and Nablus.
Paratroop commander Gur was poised just north of the ancient wall of the Old City, ready to assault Jordanian troops inside. But the government hesitated because of the international importance of the Dome of the Rock mosque, the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher and other holy sites there.
The army’s chief rabbi, Shlomo Goren, pressured Gur throughout the day not to wait for orders.
Goren had come to Israel from Poland as a child. He was a member of the Stern Gang, the most radical of the pre-1948 Jewish fighting forces in what was then British-administered Palestine. Later he joined the regular army, serving during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War as a rabbi by day and a machine-gunner by night.
Now, he argued, Gur had an opportunity to secure Judaism’s holiest site, the so-called Western, or Wailing, Wall, the only remnant of Judaism’s Second Temple complex, destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.
“History will never forgive you if you do not liberate the city because you were waiting for an order,” Goren says he told Gur.
Meanwhile, central division commander Uzi Narkiss had ordered his troops to occupy three Palestinian villages about 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem. The villages, Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba, stood near what was then a narrow corridor linking Jewish West Jerusalem with Israeli population centers on the coastal plain.
About 5,000 residents of Imwas had taken refuge in caves or a nearby monastery on the first night of the war. On the second morning, they were summoned by Israeli army loudspeaker to its center and ordered to leave immediately. All the buildings were bulldozed to the ground a few days later.
According to a sign at the entrance, the Jewish National Fund of Canada is owed a debt of gratitude for the forested park that now covers the site where Imwas stood from biblical times until 1967.
“Of course it’s difficult to come back and see people making picnics on your history,” says Ahmed abu Ghosh, 39, a former resident, as he shows a visitor the site.
“Some people don’t have the courage to come and see,” he adds. “They want to keep the village as it is in their mind.”
But Abu Ghosh, an English teacher, brings his 6-year-old son, Ihab, every two weeks so that he will learn and not forget. Abu Ghosh shows the boy the olive trees that used to belong to their family and the Roman burial cave where he hid on the first night of the war.
Narkiss, the former Israeli general, says the villages were destroyed because they were too close to Israeli lines of communication and because the residents cooperated with Egyptian army troops who used them during the first hours of the war to harass Israeli units headed for Jerusalem.
Abu Ghosh, who last year joined a few other former Imwas residents to press for rebuilding the village, counters: “The people of Imwas played no role in the war. We were punished for something we didn’t do.”
DAY THREE: The Western Wall
“Motta” Gur, the paratroop commander, knew that June 7 was going to be a historic day, so he ordered that a minute-by-minute diary be kept from the moment that Gen. Narkiss relayed the approval, at about dawn, to take Jerusalem’s Old City. The handwritten notes break in the middle of a word at the instant Gur’s halftrack hit a bump as it passed through St. Stephen’s Gate on the way to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
Gur reached the wall at 10 a.m., only to find that Rabbi Goren had beaten him there by minutes. Radio reporter Elkins was not far behind.
For the pitted, 35-foot-high limestone wall to be back in the hands of a unified Israeli nation after nearly 2,000 years was considered by religious and secular Jews alike as one of the great moments in their people’s history.
His gray beard quivering with emotion, Goren declared: “We have taken the City of God. We are entering the Messianic era for the Jewish people.”
Elkins, an agnostic, scurried from soldier to soldier, recording their reactions. When he finished, he put his tape recorder aside and picked up an empty cigarette package from the ground near the wall. He ripped it open and, thinking of his son in America, wrote on the inside:
“May Jonathan and all his generation find peace.”
Then he covered his head with a handkerchief, put the folded note in a crack between two of the ancient stones, leaned his head against the wall and wept.
After prayers at the wall, Goren went to visit his mother’s grave on the Mount of Olives, a site that had been closed to him since 1949, when the armistice ending the 1948 war left it in Jordanian hands.
To the south, on the outskirts of Bethlehem, Jamil Hamad and his extended family were sitting on the porch of their home on the main road, unaware of the course of the fighting. When a tank appeared from the direction of Jerusalem, a woman neighbor started ululating to welcome what she thought was an Iraqi army unit. Then Hamad saw Hebrew lettering on the vehicle and “I realized the size of the problem,” he recalls.
A jeep pulled up in front of the house, and an officer ordered everyone to raise their hands.
“I’ll never, never forget that moment, because if you had asked me at that moment what it meant, I would say it was humiliation,” Hamad says. “The occupation is not a political expression to me. It is a reminder of that humiliating moment. I don’t wish that feeling to anyone on Earth.”
Over breakfast that morning, even before the West Bank was securely in Israeli hands, Brig. Gen. Chaim Herzog was handed his appointment as the first military governor of the area and invited to breakfast with Dayan.
Relates Herzog, now Israel’s president: “I said to him: ‘What’s your policy? What am I supposed to do?’ And he said: ‘First of all, you’re to use Arabs. A minimum of Israelis. And I want things to be such that an Arab can be born on the West Bank, can live on the West Bank and can die on the West Bank without ever seeing an Israeli bureaucrat. It’s enough that we suffer from them. They don’t deserve to.”
History records 37 conquerors of Jerusalem over the last 4,000 years, including the Bible’s King David, the 12th-Century Arab hero Saladin and Britain’s World War I general, Edmund H. Allenby. The 37th, says former general Uzi Narkiss, was himself.
“The Sinai is no more Israeli, so nobody remembers that the Sinai was captured in 1967,” he says. “But pupils in school study how Jerusalem was reunited. And my name is associated with it.”
Still, the military glory of Six-Day War victory mostly bypassed Narkiss.
The dashing, publicity-conscious Dayan, who had lost an eye in World War II, became the worldwide symbol of Israel’s stunning victory.
“The eye patch sells magazines,” an American publisher said at the time.
Paratroop commander Gur was forever identified as the man who reclaimed the Western Wall. He went on to become army chief of staff and then a leading Labor Party politician who is considered a potential candidate for prime minister.
But Narkiss retired from the army in 1968 when it was clear he would never become chief of staff. Now he heads the information department of the World Zionist Organization, where his spacious office is full of photographs and mementos of the Six-Day War.
Michael Elkins, who later quit CBS and became the British Broadcasting Corp.'s regular Jerusalem correspondent until he retired in 1982, was always intensely aware of his responsibility to separate the reporter in him from the Zionist. But the burden became too heavy during the two terms of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Although he respects Begin, Elkins says, he despised his policies.
“To be fair when everything inside of you screams that ‘This stinks!’ is hard,” he says. He finally had a heart attack and quit.
Elkins recalls interviewing an Israeli tank commander sitting in his turret in Gaza shortly after the war.
“To be a conqueror is disgusting,” the commander told him.
“And that’s the trouble with us now,” Elkins says. “To be a conqueror is no longer disgusting to too many people.”
Israel is not solely at fault for remaining an occupier 20 years after the war, Elkins stresses. But the fact remains that “the occupation is destroying us. It’s not destroying us physically--it’s destroying my concept of the Jewish ethic. I don’t give a damn about being a light unto the Gentiles. But if we’re not a light unto the Jews. . . . . " His voice trails off.
Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, used to say that “the responsibility of a Jewish government is to do the least possible evil,” Elkins resumes. The problem is that “our tolerance for evil is very great. It grows. The soul’s vision gets opaque, increasingly. It’s like cataracts growing over your eyes.”
The pioneers who built Israel “were the best of the Jewish people,” Elkins says. “We were among the best people in the world. But we’re not the best any more. We’re an ordinary people, like ordinary people anywhere. And you shouldn’t expect us to be more.”
Rabbi Goren disagrees. The Jews are still very special, says the man who, after his army career, served as chief Ashkenazic rabbi of Israel for 11 years.
“The problem is those who don’t believe in the future. Why do we have a wave of yordim (emigrants)? This is only because of a lack of trust in the future of Israel. . . . They don’t believe in the holy mission that Zionism is carrying to the world.”
Now 68 and retired, Goren tells a visitor to his cramped, book-lined Jerusalem office that Israel is not so much a political entity as the foundation of the Jewish faith. “The faith wouldn’t exist without the land.
“I’m not afraid of the Arabs,” he adds. “I’m afraid of the Jews. The Arabs will never be able to destroy the state of Israel. But I’m afraid the Jews will do it by spreading out stories that we are not doing enough to get peace with the Arabs. You know when we will have peace? When we come to the conclusion that Judea, Samaria (the biblical names for the West Bank) and Gaza will always remain Jewish.”
DAY FOUR: The Hebron Hills
By Thursday, Israeli troops were on the banks of the Suez Canal. At a Jerusalem news conference, Dayan declared victory over Egypt. Both Israel and Jordan accepted a United Nations-sponsored cease-fire on the eastern front.
Israeli troops entered Hebron at 6:30 a.m., spoiling for a fight. It was and remains the second-largest city on the West Bank, with a population of nearly 90,000 Palestinians, considered the most hostile in the area toward Jews. It was in Hebron that Palestinians had massacred scores of Jews during uprisings in 1929 and 1936, finally driving them all away from what is historically Judaism’s second-holiest city, the first seat of David’s kingdom and the burial place of the patriarch Abraham.
But now no Palestinian fighters greeted those first Israeli troops, only empty streets and white flags of surrender.
Miriam Levinger and Nayef Jiawe have a lot in common. Both now live in the Hebron Hills. Both have also demonstrated a fierce determination enabling them to survive physical hardship. But Levinger, a leader of the most militant Jewish settlers on the West Bank, and Jiawe, a former Palestinian guerrilla fighter who spent 16 years in Israeli prisons, are at opposite extremes of a political battle for Palestine that continues a generation after the military one was concluded.
For anyone who had a thorough Jewish education like hers, Levinger says, Israel’s startling victory in the Six-Day War was a miracle, a prophecy come true.
“God has returned us biblical Israel, and we must go at once and settle it,” she recalls her husband saying.
“I thought about it for 24 hours,” Levinger admits. “Then I said: ‘Why not? Let’s be gung ho about it. Hold your nose and jump in.’ ”
After battling Palestinians and sometimes their own government for the right to stay, the Levingers live today with their 11 children and a handful of other Jewish families in the center of the city, next to Hebron’s teeming Arab market. The door to their old stone house is always unlocked, but there is barbed wire over some of the upstairs windows, and outside, Israeli soldiers stand 24-hour guard.
Peeling garlic cloves in her kitchen, Levinger recalls that early enthusiasm.
“The whole feeling was like the Messiah is just around the corner, waiting at the next traffic light.” Today, she adds, “We’re sadder but wiser. We thought the Messiah was around the corner; lots of others thought the Arabs would make peace. The more mature a person is, the more he sees things are more complex than he thought when he was younger.”
She was forced to do some soul-searching when it was revealed in 1984 that her son-in-law was among two dozen West Bank settlers in a Jewish underground group responsible for killing three Hebron University students, maiming two West Bank mayors and terrorizing countless other Palestinians.
“I just felt that my whole world went topsy-turvy and I had to work things out,” Levinger says. It took her a year, but in the end she sided with the apparent majority of Israelis who found the group’s actions regrettable but understandable, done out of love for Israel.
By contrast, she contends, the Arabs are intent on annihilating the Jews, and “if they’re not kept at bay, they’ll do what they talk about.” At the time the group acted, the situation in Hebron was tense and the government was not reacting firmly enough, she says. So the underground “acted according to the situation at that time.”
“They are not murderers,” Levinger insists of her son-in-law and his accomplices. “The Arabs who murder are murderers.”
Nayef Jiawe was only 15 when Israeli soldiers first entered Idna in 1967, but he soon started going nightly into the surrounding Hebron Hills hoping to find a band of PLO fighters to join. In the end, he says, they found him.
“They trained us how to use the Kalashnikovs, how to use the hand grenades. And they said the most important thing is to know why you are using the arms.”
“We used to hide in caves, in trees, in houses,” adds Youssef Diab, another former guerrilla fighter from Idna who is today Jiawe’s partner in a business making and selling Arab sweets.
Both men were captured and convicted of participating in attacks against military patrols, Israeli security sources confirm--Jiawe in 1969 and Diab in 1972.
Both men were released as part of a prisoner exchange in May, 1985, and allowed to return to their West Bank village, where they are treated like heroes.
Jiawe’s feelings have not changed since 1967, he says, because the situation of his people has not changed.
“There is no Christ--no right cheek and left cheek,” he says. “We believe (he) who slaps you on the right cheek, slap him on the left or you are not a man. That is the rule they forced on us.”
To Jiawe, his prison time was not wasted.
“I think you can go through this village and ask any small child: ‘What is the name of your country?’ He will say: ‘Palestine.’ Ask him: ‘Who is your president?’ He’ll say, without hesitation: ‘Yasser Arafat.’ These are not small things.”
DAYS FIVE AND SIX: Victory
Israel used the last two days of the war to punish its Arab antagonists and to secure territorial gains before new cease-fire lines were drawn. Syria was its primary target.
After encouraging Nasser to mobilize in the first place, the Syrians had played only a marginal role in the actual fighting. King Hussein would later accuse Damascus of treachery for failing to respond to his pleas for reinforcements.
But recalling Syria’s history of pressure against its northern settlements, and with victory assured on the southern and eastern fronts, Defense Minister Dayan on June 9, 1967, ordered his army to attack Syrian positions on the Golan Heights. In one of the last acts of the war, Israeli paratroopers rushed to occupy the peak of Mt. Hermon, within sight of Damascus, before a U.N. cease-fire effective at 6:30 p.m. on June 10.
The war’s toll is easier to quantify than to characterize. Combined Arab killed and wounded have been estimated at 20,000. Israel lost 764 lives.
The conflict also created 280,000 new Palestinian refugees, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. About 220,000 more, who were among the 900,000 who had lost their homes in 1948, were displaced for a second time.
AFTERMATH: Animosity Lingers
“Be under no illusion that the state of Israel is prepared to return to the situation that reigned up to a week ago,” Prime Minister Eshkol said on June 12, 1967. “Alone we fought for our existence and our security. We are entitled to determine what are the true and vital interests of our country, and how they shall be secured.”
A week later, according to Chaim Herzog, the Cabinet voted unanimously to return all of the Sinai and the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, demilitarization and special security arrangements at Sharm el Sheik, the southernmost point of the Sinai, controlling the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba.
“Moves were afoot, too, to enter into negotiations with King Hussein of Jordan in respect of the West Bank,” he says.
On June 27, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, officially reunifying the city and declaring it the Jewish state’s eternal capital.
On Sept. 1, an Arab summit meeting at Khartoum, Sudan, passed the famous “three nos” resolution: no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel.
After the war, the mood among Israelis was euphoric, the mood among the Arabs one of shock.
Joyous Jews were so anxious to visit the newly liberated holy places in Jerusalem’s Old City that they scrambled through still-uncleared Jordanian mine fields. Five paid for their impatience with their lives.
Soprano Shuli Natan’s rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold” became the theme song of the war:
Oh city with a heart of gold.
My heart will sing your songs of glory,
Jerusalem of Gold.
After performing for several years, Natan took a break from her career to marry and have five children. Recently, she began to sing professionally again.
Mustafa Kurd, the oud player from Nablus, wrote a sad song after the war that is probably as well known among Palestinians as “Jerusalem of Gold” is among Israelis. His lament is called: “The Plow.”
If someone gave me the entire Earth
Or all the treasures in the sky
Never, my country, will I forget you.
Take the plow, take the scythe,
And never, oh never, leave the land.
Kurd ignored his own musical admonition and left the country on Dec. 28, 1976, soon after being freed from 10 months in an Israeli prison for alleged illegal political activity.
He says he left for “personal reasons” and acknowledges that some here still criticize him for going. The important thing, he says, is that he is back (since December, 1985), teaching the oud and serving as musical director for East Jerusalem’s Hakawati Palestinian Theater.
He recognizes the conflict within him: “I know myself there are two Mustafas.” And he takes comfort from an Arabic poem contrasting the difficulties of life at sea with the peacefulness of a beach. Once on the beach, however, the poet finds the sea beckoning him once more.
Journalist Jamal Hamad was covering the war’s continuing ripples on the West Bank when he met an Israeli counterpart named Dani Rubenstein several years later. The camaraderie of a shared profession was quickly cooled by the discovery that they had first met at Hamad’s Bethlehem home a few days after the 1967 war.
Israeli troops had come to search Hamad’s house after a report of shooting from the area. A soldier roughed up his wife and some valuables were stolen, the Palestinian says.
Hamad realized that Rubenstein had been one of those soldiers only when he invited the Israeli home to dinner and Rubenstein recognized the place.
According to Rubenstein, he arrived after the trouble started. No one ever confessed to looting, he adds, but he was suspicious of some of the soldiers, who were from a different unit.
Whatever the truth, the incident clearly stands between the two men today, even though their political views are in some ways similar.
Hamad, who became the first editor of the East Jerusalem Arabic newspaper Al Fajr in 1972, says his wife now refuses to have Rubenstein in the house. And when he looks at the reputedly leftist Israeli journalist, his mind’s eye sees the Israeli soldier underneath.
An Israeli soldier fired the tear gas canister that hit Hamad’s then-15-year-old son in the head during a student demonstration in 1982. Now at a university abroad, the boy required two brain operations and reconstructive surgery to his face.
Hamad says he never hated Israelis.
“I think hatred is an expression of weakness. I disagree with them. I oppose them. Most of the time I don’t trust them. But I don’t hate them.”
Rubenstein is equally distrustful of Hamad, who was once questioned in connection with the still-unsolved disappearance of Al Fajr’s first publisher, Yosef Nasser.
For all that he criticizes Israeli actions on the West Bank, Rubenstein says, he is still able to tell Arab friends that he would be willing to accept a world in which the Arab-Jewish situations were reversed.
“I’ll live as a Jew in a Palestinian-occupied state as long as there are 20 other Jewish states surrounding us. . . . I just have two conditions: that they all speak Hebrew and follow the Jewish religion in one form or another.”
It shows, he says, that the real underdogs are not Arabs living under Israeli rule, but Israelis surrounded by Arab nations.
The author of a reflection on the war printed by the Hebrew-language newspaper Yediot Aharonot on June 25, 1967, quoted a Palestinian friend of his from Nablus.
“If we make up, if we work together, with our joint forces we can turn this country into a paradise! There would be nothing we couldn’t achieve!”
Meron Benvenisti’s goal in approving the monument to Jordanian soldiers was not nearly that ambitious. He just wanted to acknowledge that this was a shared land and a shared city, and to suggest that it can only be shared realistically based on equality.
The monument still stands at the northeast corner of the Old City wall. But few now know what it represents, and fewer visit it.
“No such monument could be built today,” Benvenisti says. “It’s also a monument to the failure of a perception, a failure of people like me.”