D’Var Torah | April 28, 2017

Fifty years ago, as Israel celebrated her birthday on May 15, 1967, many feared for her survival.

Much of the Arab world was gearing up to destroy the fledgling state, and there was talk of another Holocaust. Miraculously, that is not what happened. Yet by winning what became known as the Six-Day War, a new group of challenges beset the young nation.

The challenges facing Israel are many, both physically and philosophically. Those challenges are so great that they are deserving of more time and space than this column allows. However, I will tell you later about a six-part class to decipher the many issues that are now seen as challenges to Israel.

But first, let’s go back 50 years to the events of the war as they unfolded.

By May 1967, the Jewish state had been attacked so frequently from the Golan Heights that most children slept in bomb shelters. Meanwhile, a recently formed terrorist group, the PLO, repeatedly attacked Israeli citizens.

Then, on the 19th anniversary of the establishment of Israel, the Egyptian army massed at Israel’s southern border. Within days, the Syrian army joined them to the north. One week later, the United Nation peace keeping mission was withdrawn from the region. Egypt then closed the Straits of Tiran, cutting off Israeli shipping – the first concrete step that led to the war.

By the end of May, Egypt, Jordan and Syria signed a pact, with the goal of completely wiping out Israel. With Iraq and the PLO joining their cause by early June, Israel was surrounded by almost 1,000 war planes, more than 2,500 tanks, and more than a million soldiers.

On June 5, the Israel could wait no longer. Calling in reserves to bolster its army of 50,000 men, it sent nearly its entire air force south to negate Egypt’s aircraft on the ground. The mission was a success, but Israel still faced stiff fighting ahead.

Standing alone, embargoed by its allies in France and the United States, Israel stood up to its Soviet-backed Arab enemies.

By the end of the first day the Israeli air force had defeated the combined Arab air forces, and the land battles began. After three days of intense fighting, the outnumbered, outgunned Israeli Defense Forces had an overwhelming victory in the south.

Meanwhile the Jordanian army attacked hard from East Jerusalem, but Israel overcame overwhelming odds and reunited Jerusalem on June 7. The next day, the Egyptian border was secure as well, with Egyptian armies retreating across the Sinai.

Israel then turned its attention to the north, where an outnumbered, brave group of soldiers defended the border against the Syrian army. On June 9, Israel took the Golan Heights, freeing its citizens in the Galilee from Syrian artillery.

After five days, Israel was still standing. Although it suffered heavy losses, the country had survived and had the opportunity to press on to Amman, Cairo, Damascus and Beirut, all of which were open before them. Nevertheless, Israel signed a ceasefire on May 10, content to remain safe with their land.

There were six key issues related to the war, which will be expounded upon in a six-part series of 90-minute classes on Monday nights in May and June.

The first issue, which will be taught on May 8, 7 p.m., will be: “If Judaism is a religion of ideas, why do Jews care so much about land?” The second class a week later addresses “Why Israel perpetually raises the ire of the entire world?” The next class will be titled, “What are the ethics of preemptive strikes and collateral damage?” The classes in June will focus on, “How Israel should protect itself against an enemy that hides behind human shields.” The next class’ topic is, “What should Israel do with territories captured during the six day war?”

The final class is titled, “What lies at the heart of the land-for-peace debate?” All classes will be held at the Jewish Learning Center, 110 Dupont Circle, each Monday night at 7 p.m. beginning on May 8. The cost for the entire series is $80. The first class is free and a 25 percent discount is available by May 2 by using the code Community Newspaper. Registration can be made online at myjli. com or by calling 502-235-5770.

(Rabbi Chaim Litvin is the program director at Chabad of Kentucky.)

Shabbat candles should be lit on the following nights and times: April 28 at 8:14 p.m.; May 5 at 8:20 p.m.; May 12 at 8:26 p.m.; May 19 at 8:32 p.m.; May 26 at 8:38 p.m.

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