In the week before the start of the Six Day War, the Arab streets echoed with calls to destroy the Jewish state.
Jordan signed a military pact with Egypt and Syria. Meanwhile, Israel hoped the United States would forcibly break the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran, but the US refrained from intervening, fearing a confrontation with the Egypt-sponsoring USSR.
Israel’s army was gravely outnumbered. Poised for assault were 80,000 Egyptian troops, 60,000 Jordanian troops, and 50,000 Syrian troops, and a total of more than 850 tanks and 600 combat aircraft.
The mood throughout Israel was tense and anxious. Schools and public transportation were suspended. Teenagers worked filling sandbags. School buildings were converted to bomb shelters. Medicine and over 14,000 hospital beds were prepared.
In addition, parks throughout the country were dug up – to ready over 10,000 graves. Israelis feared a second Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Jews and non-Jews held mass demonstrations and fundraisers in New York and London. Jewish volunteers from around the world arrived to enlist in Israel’s defense.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol addressed the nation in a televised speech now famous for its hesitancy, and later entrusted the Defense Ministry to Israeli war hero General Moshe Dayan.
By now, it was clear that diplomacy had failed. On the night of June 4, Israel’s cabinet confirmed that Arab armies threatened the very existence of the State. The government authorized Prime Minister Eshkol and Defense Minister Dayan to deploy the Israeli Defense Forces for preemptive military action.
That action that would remain top secret until the morning.
This video was produced by Jerusalem U in partnership with The Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish National Fund, the Israel Action Network, the European Jewish Congress and the Center for Israel Education. For more on the dramatic events and impact of the Six Day War, visit sixdaywarproject.org.