The Six-Day War, Part 1
The date was June 5, 1967— and it seemed like the whole world was against Israel. The fledgling Jewish state was impossibly outnumbered. Less than two decades after fighting for its establishment, Israel faced a legion of enemies closing in. But Israel had something none of its enemies had: God’s protection. Only the Lord could ensure the survival of His Chosen People, and He worked through Israel’s few but courageous defenders to bring about a miracle in the Holy Land.
Join us this week for part 1 of an in-depth look at the 1967 Six-Day War and how God preserved Israel against all odds! This week’s show provides a perfect opportunity to learn about one of the most important events in Israel’s history and the circumstances that sparked this landmark conflict. The story of the Six-Day War is a testament both to Israel’s tactical skill and God’s great faithfulness to the Jewish people and their new nation!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. Have you visited our website, foiradio.org? After this episode ends, I invite you to visit us. If you haven't been there, we have over eight years worth of content on our site, and you can listen to it at foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, did you know that this June is going to mark the 56th anniversary of the Six-Day War, a very important strategic war that Israel was a part of as its surrounding neighbors, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and more attacked the Jewish state. Well, we're going to talk about that over the next two weeks, and we're going to actually be looking at not only the history of the Six-Day War, but also the results of the Six-Day War, the impact that it had on Israel on the Jewish people, but also on political policy and international policy as well.
Steve Conover: But first in the news, a sober story, CNN Anchor Christiane Amanpour issued a public apology on air after referring to the murder of Israelis, Maia, Rina, and Lucy Dee, as the result of a quote-unquote, "shootout," when it was actually a Palestinian terrorist attack. The bereaved father and widower Rabbi Leo Dee demanded a public apology from CNN.
Chris Katulka: Well, here's my take. I'll give Rabbi Leo Dee the last word. He said this in a recent interview quote, "They said my wife and daughters were killed and not brutally murdered by an evil Palestinian terrorist funded by Iran, and it's the typical CNN-ism where they are trying to do a comparison between the victim and the terrorist." Let's continue to pray for the Dee family.
Chris Katulka: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that's true, but David Rubinger's photo of three IDF paratroopers standing at the western wall moments after Israel recaptured the old city of Jerusalem could fill volumes. The faces of Yitzhak Yifat, Zion Karasenti, and Haim Oshri defined the moment impeccably. Their countenance expresses emotions of wonder, loss, and triumph in one glance. Wonderment because after more than 2000 years, the Jewish people have control of their ancient capital and the Temple Mount. Yifat, Karasenti, and Oshri and the whole army were well aware of the significance of the moment. And their thoughts probably wandered to realms of astonishment as they contemplated their historic role in Jerusalem's liberation, fulfilling prayers offered by their ancestors. What seemed like an age-old dream had now become a reality. These three young soldiers are notably exhausted. You can see that in the picture.
They're tired from three days of fighting, but from their vantage point, they don't know that there is still three days left of the Six-Day War, but their fatigue, you can see it on their face, it's visible. Brothers were lost during the battle. Nearly a hundred Israeli paratroopers were killed that day, and 400 wounded. Brigadier General Shlomo Goren, would later become Israel's Chief Rabbi, recited the memorial prayer and blew the shofar. The Voice of Israel radio broadcast captured the moment for everyone to hear. In the background, soldiers can be heard weeping over the loss of friends killed in battle, and through the wonder, the tears, and the fatigue, a new day was dawning for the tiny Jewish state.
June 7th, 1967 was a major sign of victory. From a human perspective, the odds were all against Israel, but with God on their side the planned attack backfired on the Arab coalition who wished to push Israel into the sea, and in just six days, Israel tripled its size, and on the seventh day, they rested. We're coming up on the 56th anniversary of the Six-Day War, and that's why I thought we should dedicate the next two episodes to learning about the history of this defining moment for the modern state of Israel.
Today we're going to be looking at the events surrounding the Six-Day War, and next week we're going to examine the aftermath. Now, two years prior to the Six-Day War, Arab leaders convened in Morocco to gauge whether another fight with Israel was possible after their defeat during Israel's independence war in 1949. That's right, in 1949, the fledgling Jewish state was once again outnumbered 10 to one with the Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Iraqis looking to push the newly formed Jewish state into the Mediterranean Sea. But God protected Israel then, and despite being outnumbered, Israel pushed back their neighbors and revealed to the world that they could in fact defend themselves. Well, at that Arab summit in Morocco, King Hassan II, Morocco's monarch, was actually suspicious of his guests and their motives. He recorded the meeting and shockingly handed the audio to Israeli intelligence.
The tapes indicated that an attack on Israel was imminent in 1967, but it also revealed the Arab nations were disorganized and incohesive. Major General Shlomo Gazit, who headed the research department of Israel's military intelligence, said these words. He said quote, "These recordings, which were truly an extraordinary intelligence achievement, further showed us that on one hand, the Arab states were headed toward a conflict that we must prepare for, but on the other hand, they're rambling about Arab unity and having a united front against Israel didn't reflect real unanimity among them." On May 27th, 1967, mere days before the start of the war, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's president, publicly stated this, listen to these words that he said, "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight." Israel called reserve forces into action. After Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia advanced their armies to the border.
Simultaneously, the armies of Kuwait, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia and Iraq were contributing troops and arms to the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian fronts. June 5th, 1967, Israel was surrounded and alone. Desperation forced Israel's military commanders to think strategically. They opted to go on the offensive and preemptively strike using the full force of the Israeli Air Force. The plan was to bomb Egyptian airfields as their pilots ate breakfast. Prior to the strike, Yitzhak Rabin told Israeli pilots, "Remember, your mission is one of life or death. If you succeed, we win the war. If you fail, God help us." The Arab rhetoric was matched by the mobilization of Arab forces, approximately 465,000 troops. More than 2,800 tanks and 800 aircraft surrounded the country of Israel. That morning, the Israeli Air Force managed to destroy 302 fighter planes, obliterating the Egyptian Air Force. They also destroyed several Syrian and Jordanian aircraft. The fight moved from the air to the ground.
Some of history's most famous tank battles were actually fought in Egypt as the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, blazed across the Sinai Peninsula reaching the Suez Canal by June 9th, 1967. The United States tried to prevent the war through negotiations, but it wasn't able to persuade Egyptian President Nasser or other Arab states to cease their hostile statements and actions. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent the head of Mossad, Meir Amit, to Washington to gauge the sentiment for war. Right before the war, United States President Lyndon B. Johnson warned, "Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone." Then when the war began, the State Department announced, "Our position is neutral in thought, word, and deed." So even the United States changed their mind just as Israel was going to war. Arabs started to falsely claim the United States of airlifting supplies to Israel. President Johnson proceeded to impose an arms embargo on the region.
France, Israel's other main arm suppliers, also put an arms embargo in place after Israel ignored de Gaulle's plea not to go to war, leaving Israel once again with no help. By contrast, the Soviets were supplying massive amounts of arms to the Arab nations. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol informed Jordan's King Hussein on the first day of the war that Israel had no interest in fighting with their Eastern neighbor. However, they would retaliate if instigated to war. Later that day, Israel's capital in West Jerusalem was under siege as Jordanian mortars fell on the Knesset, which is Israel's parliament building. King Hussein's decision to fight changed the course of Middle Eastern history. Within just two days, the Temple Mount, the old city of Jerusalem, east Jerusalem and the entire West Bank were under Israeli control. According to Major General Rafael Vardi, the Palestinians actually believed the Jordanians and other Arab forces were going to occupy Israel quickly.
Such was their surprise that the Israeli forces that entered Nablus were welcomed by the population, think about this, with flowers and with flags because they actually thought those Israelis were the Iraqi forces that had come to support the Jordanians. Well, the energy was directed toward the north then in Syria, with Egypt and Jordan contained. The Syrian army had strategic high ground in the Golan Heights. But after two days of Israeli airstrikes, the IDF penetrated Syrian lines. In six days, Israel's army was militarily positioned to take Cairo, Amman and Damascus. Jordan and Egypt would agree to a ceasefire on June 8th and Syria followed later on June 9th. The agreements were all signed on June 11th, 1967.
Now, if you love this kind of history like I do, then I want to encourage you to do something. You can actually go to foiradio.org to get more insights into the Six-Day War and all of Israel's modern wars by purchasing the book Israel Always. Israel Always is a fantastic glance at biblical Israel, modern Israel, and future Israel. So if you would like to study more about what's happening in Israel, biblical history, and modern history, then I'd encourage you to get Israel Always. You can do that by going to foiradio.org, and there you can purchase your copy of Israel Always.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back. We are honoring the 56th anniversary of Israel's survival during the Six-Day War. We've been looking at the history of the Six-Day War, and the fact that Israel was able to defeat multiple Arab nations is a picture of the word spoken by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. David Ben-Gurion would often say this, "Israel doesn't just believe in miracles. Israel depends on miracles." And that's what happened during the Six-Day War, but something else appeared during the Six-Day War. In 1963, the Arab League decided to introduce a new weapon in its war against Israel, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, or maybe you know it as the PLO. The PLO formally came into being during 1964 at a meeting of the first Palestinian Congress. Shortly thereafter, the group began to splinter into various factions, but the largest political group, Fatah, would come to control the organization and its leader, Yaser Arafat, maybe you know that name, would become the PLO Chairman and most visible symbol.
All of the groups adhered to a set of principles laid out in the Palestinian National Charter, which called for Israel's destruction. The PLO's hostile language was matched by their deeds. Terrorist attacks by the group grew more frequent. In 1965, 35 attacks were conducted against Israel. In 1966 that grew to 41 attacks. In just the first four months of 1967, 37 attacks were launched against Israel. The targets were always Israeli citizens. Most of the attacks involved Palestinian fighters infiltrating Israel from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. The orders and logistical support for the attacks were coming, however, from Cairo and Damascus. Egyptian President Nasser's main objective was to harass the Israelis, but a secondary one was to actually undermine King Hussein's regime in Jordan. That's right, there was infighting among the Arab nations attacking Israel. It's the reason they were so disorganized in their strategy, and we heard about that earlier when the Moroccan King gave the tapes for the Israelis to listen to see that not only were they disorganized, but they were also incohesive.
They did not work together as a team. King Hussein viewed the PLO as both a direct and indirect threat to his power. The Jordanian King feared that the PLO might try to depose him with Nasser's help, or that the PLO's attack on Israel would provoke a retaliatory strike by the Israeli forces that could weaken his authority. By the beginning of 1967, Hussein had closed the PLO offices in Jerusalem, arrested many of the group's members and withdrew recognition of the organization. Well, Nasser and his friends in the region unleashed a torrent of criticism on Hussein for betraying the Arab cause. Attacks on Israel weren't just coming from the outside now. Now they were coming from within.
But I have to stop here for a moment and remind you of a very important Psalm. Psalm 121, "I lift my eyes to the hills from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made the heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil. He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and you're coming in from this time forth and forevermore. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." That passage is as important today as it was when it was written 3000 years ago, God is not asleep. In fact, his eyes are on Israel. But why? Because they are the apple of his eye. Israel's defeat of their numerous enemies is a sign that God is guiding them and leading them and wide awake.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: Israel is constantly being attacked by bloodthirsty people who seek to annihilate us, but no power on earth can stand against God. The Lord knows the nation's hatred against Israel and he watches over us. As a nation we are only strong because of his love for us. Recently, I was stationed in Samaria in the army, and one day we went to a restaurant in Shechem and inside were several Arabs. When they began to say things against us, I responded in Arabic, "As long as you continue to follow after darkness, you will remain blind. Having Russia on your side will not help you. You are not strong enough to fight the battle." "Oh, yes, we are very strong." Soon, more Arabs entered the restaurant, all likewise confident in themselves. I said, "You can see how many people you have and how many people we have. This fact alone should show you how weak you are."
One replied, "That does not make sense. We have so many people and you have so few." I answered, "We are small in quantity, but we are great in quality. Your past experiences and words against us should prove that to you." "What is your secret," one asked? I said, "As a soldier, I cannot disclose military secrets, but as a believer, I can tell you the secret is to fear God and follow only him, then you will no longer hate Israel." One answered, "We pray five times a day. Is this not enough?" "No," I answered. "If you pray only once a day, but your prayer is sincere and you pray for love and forgiveness of your sins, then you will change your mind about Israel." Another replied, "We pray to Allah and to his prophet Muhammad."
I said, "There is only one God. We do not pray to our prophets. They're no longer alive and they cannot help us. We must open our hearts to God. He is merciful and ready to help us when we pray to him." I opened my Bible and read first in Hebrew to the Israeli soldiers and then in Arabic. The Arabs were surprised, but then they realized, I believe in the Lord Jesus as my savior. When they understood this, our conversation changed and they and the Israeli soldiers wanted to know how I had come to believe in the Lord. I explained I was not born a soldier. I was born as a human being, as all of us were, a creature of God. Today, I am a soldier. Tomorrow I will be a private citizen again, but even as soldiers, we are not made of iron. We need his help.
Without him, we can do nothing. This is why I lift up my eyes to the Lord in heaven. He has forgiven my sins, cleansed me through his blood and wrote my name in the Book of Life because I have received him as my savior. I can speak to you with friends even though you hate me. The Lord has taught us to love our enemies and to pray for them. Most of the Arabs were Islamic, but two were Greek Orthodox. One of the Greek Orthodox Arab asked me, "If you believe in Jesus, why are you in the army?" I replied, "You know what is written in Matthew 22:21? The Lord said, 'Render, therefore to Caesar the thing that is Caesar's, and to God the things that are Gods.' I serve in the army because I'm an Israeli citizen and I serve the Lord because I belong to him." After this, we had to leave the restaurant. I can truly say they were sorry to see me leave. I am happy I have the opportunity to tell them what the Lord can do for us and how we can make Arabs and Jewish people friends.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us this week. We'll be focused again next week on the Six-Day War. Chris, what can we expect in next week's program?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, so this week, we looked at the history. It was a brief history. We only had a few moments to talk about what happened in just six days, but next week we're going to look at the aftermath of what happened in the Six-Day War. Israel will triple in size in just six days, but even more than that, even today, the political conversations that we're having about Israel stem from the Six-Day War, and so we're going to not only look at what happened after the war, but also the way that people are still talking about Israel in relationship to the events of the Six-Day War.
Steve Conover: We look forward to it. We hope you join us. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, engineered by Bob Beebe, edited by Jeremy Strong, who also composed and performs our theme music. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099, and I'll give you one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Israel Always is a sweeping journey through Israel’s prolific history, its modern-day influence, and its promised future, highlighting the continuous throughline of God’s provision for His people. Insightful and informative, this book will enrich your understanding of the Bible, enhance your appreciation for Israel, and elevate your awareness of God’s steadfast love for all His people—including you—today.
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Apples of Gold: I Can Speak to You as Friends
While Zvi was serving in the army in Samaria, he went with a group of soldiers to eat lunch. When they entered the restaurant, a group of Arabs started harassing the soldiers. Their boasts of their powerful army did not deter Zvi; in fact, they helped him begin a conversation about the true source of Israel’s survival and victory. Hear how Zvi was able to turn a potentially stressful situation into a divine appointment for both the Arabs and Israeli soldiers. Be encouraged!
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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