Within the brief span of six days, the IDF overran the Sinai peninsula; took the entire West Bank of the River Jordan; and captured a great part of the Golan Heights. The culminating event was the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem.​

 The Six-Day War (June 1967)


Paratroopers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, June 1967 (GPO/D. Rubinger)

The year 1967 began with confident predictions that it would not bring war.  Nasser, it was argued in Israel, had learned the lesson of 1956 and would not start a war unless he was ready. In any case, his relations with Jordan were notoriously bad and a coalition between Nasser and King Hussein was out of the question.

In quick succession, events gave the lie to these predictions. A clash in the air, in which Syria – Russia’s closest ally in the Middle East – lost 13 planes, provided the opening signal. As a result of Soviet prodding, Nasser mobilized and sent 100,000 troops to Sinai. He demanded that the Secretary General of the United Nations withdraw UNEF forthwith, and – probably to his own surprise – succeeded immediately and the "firemen" departed. Then Nasser announced the closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping (May 23) – a clearcut casus belli. He ended by taunting Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s Chief of Staff: "Let him come, I’m waiting."

Meanwhile he succeeded in bringing about close coordination with the Syrian army. King Hussein, in an abrupt about-face, flew to Egypt and signed an agreement placing his forces under overall Egyptian comand. It was to cost him half his kingdom.

Israel, its reserves fully mobilized, its nerves taut to the snapping point, waited for three long weeks. The situation seemed the reverse of 1956; Israel was alone, against a powerful Arab coalition. The Big Powers, vague promises notwithstanding, did nothing to reopen the Straits and Israel decided to go it alone.

On 5 June 1967 a cluster of planes flying from Egypt to Israel was seen on King Hussein’s radar screen. Convinced by the Egyptians that the planes were theirs, he promptly gave the order to attack – in Jerusalem! In fact the planes were Israel’s, returning from their devastating attack against the Egyptian airforce, which surprisingly had been taken by surprise; after taunting Rabin, Egypt was not ready when he came.

Within the brief span of six days, the IDF overran the whole Sinai peninsula, up to the Suez Canal; took the entire West Bank of the River Jordan; and in the last days, without the benefit of surprise, captured a great part of the Golan Heights, including the dominant Mount Hermon – from then on "the eyes and ears of Israel". The culminating event was the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem and the re-encounter with the place most revered by Jews, the Western (Wailing) Wall. The blowing of the shofar at the Western Wall reverberated throughout the world.

776 Israeli soldiers fell in the Six-Day War.

Whilst all branches of the service had performed well, the Air Force had, for the first time, played a decisive role: clearing the skies at the outset made all that followed possible. This was the War of the Air Force.

Diplomatic efforts to bring to an end the by-now 40 years of conflict, which predated the establishment of Israel by more than two decades, came to nought. In November 1967, after months of deliberations, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, calling for peace and recognition of the "right of every nation to live free from threat within secure and recognized boundaries", in return for Israel’s withdrawal "from territories", not "all the territories", nor "the territories captured in the course of the recent hostilities". However, the Arab League, in its session in the Sudan (1967) adopted a different resolution, the "Three No’s" of Khartoum: No peace, No negotiations, No recognition of Israel.

From "The Arab-Israeli Wars" by Netanel Lorch