The Six-Day War

The Six-Day War – a spectacular military victory of Israel over her aggressive Arab neighbors – lasted from June 5 through June 10, 1967. The war which many feared would lead to the impending destruction of Israel, not only saw her survive but actually win with considerable territorial gains comprising the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. The City of Jerusalem was united as a result of the war.

The unrest on the part of Israel's neighbors started years earlier following their breach of promises and agreements in the aftermath of the 1956 Sinai Campaign. In early 1957 the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was set up to act as a buffer along the Israeli and Egyptian border. Israel was promised freedom of passage for her ships through the Straits of Tiran, located at the southern point of the Sinai Peninsula, in exchange for giving up the territory she captured in 1956.

Egypt, led by Gamal Abdul Nasser, influenced Syria to repeatedly attack Israel, in a blatant disregard of earlier understandings and in avoidance of the UN presence. Recurring attacks of Israeli citizens in their homes was carried out from the Golan Heights by the Syrians and from the Jordanian border. The growing Soviet support and influence encouraged Egypt to escalate her aggression. The situation left Israel with no choice but to launch retaliatory raids on the offenders. The cycle of violence eventually escalated into a full-fledged crisis.

In May 1967, ten years after elaborate promises were made, the UN forces withdrew, following Nasser's demand, the buffer zone disappeared and Israeli ships were denied access through the Straits of Tiran. The Arab countries, once again bent on the destruction of Israel, pooled their forces, and massed staggering numbers of troops and equipment. As the world looked on, Syria, Egypt and Jordan together, with contingents from other Arab countries, surrounded Israel with 250,000 troops, over 2,000 tanks and some 700 frontline fighter planes and bombers.

While Israel waited for the first explosive shot in the tense air, world Jewry responded to her calls for help. With thousands of Jews flying in from all parts of the world, and in an amazing outpour of financial support, Israel's brethren stated their wish to be part of the war effort. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, the Israeli government took steps for a crisis situation and expanded itself into an emergency government of national unity. Moshe Dayan became the newly appointed Minister of Defense.

The IDF, with Major General Yizhak Rabin as Commander in Chief and Brigadier General Mordehai Hod leading the Israeli Air Force, took a daring offensive on the morning of June 5, 1967. Flying low beneath the Arab radar screens, they surprised Egypt, Jordan and Syria in a devastating raid that destroyed their air forces. As Israel's ground forces then proceeded to push their way to Sinai, King Hussein of Jordan began shelling the heart of Israel's villages, towns and cities. Ignoring Israel's guarantee that his country would not be harmed if he stayed out of the war, Hussein created the situation for one of Israel's most meaningful victories. Israeli forces were sent into the West Bank and on June 7 the Old City of Jerusalem was once again in Israel's hands.

With the army and air force both achieving astonishing victories, the navy too had its share of accomplishments. In the south, navy forces sailed around the Gulf of Akaba, took Sharm el-Sheik at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, and restored the right of Israeli ships to sail through the Straits of Tiran. When the threat in the South subsided, Israel put her energy into dealing with the Syrians in the north and captured the Golan Heights. On June 10, after the Arab military forces on all three fronts were eliminated, Egypt and Syria accepted a cease-fire.

The city of Jerusalem became reunited and Israel gained full control over and administration of the occupied areas. Israel, in a statement of good will, allowed continued access to the Muslim Holy places for the Arab worshippers, and West Bank Arabs the right to visit Jordanian relatives. The euphoric mood in Israel as a result of the victory didn't last many years. The bitter animosity between Israel and the Arabs didn't subside, and Israel's neighbors continued to reject her rights to exist. Not only did the Arabs refuse to recognize Israel, but also the Palestinians resorted to terror as their means of fighting Israel. Eventually the Arabs tried again, when in 1973 Egypt and Syria launched the Yom Kippur War. In addition, with no political solution to the conflict Israel has been trapped since the Six-Day War with having to control the massive hostile Palestinian population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The stamps were issued in 1967 to commemorate the victory in the war (a 3rd stamp in the series depicts IDF's emblem). Designers: "ROLI" - G. Rothschild and Z. Lippmahn.