6 ways the world changed after the 1967 Six Day War

Thousands of years ago, God created our natural world in six days. Fifty-five years ago, He reshaped history in six hurried days.

 IDF 14th Brigade tanks advance on the Crimson Axis in the Sinai Desert, June 5, 1967. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
IDF 14th Brigade tanks advance on the Crimson Axis in the Sinai Desert, June 5, 1967.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The actual State of Israel was established 74 years ago in 1948. However, the modern State of Israel as we know it was launched in 1967. The Six Day War was so revolutionary and so transformative, that in many ways, it surpassed the achievements of 1948. Thousands of years ago, God created our natural world in six days. Fifty-five years ago, He reshaped history in six hurried days. Here are the six major revolutions of those stunning days in June 1967:

1) The return to the biblical “corridor”

In 1948, Jews were graciously “permitted” to return to a carved-up parcel of Israel. The formation of a homeland for the Jews soothed the world’s conscience after the horrors of the Holocaust. Additionally, it solved the prickly issue of unwanted Jewish refugees. By contrast, in 1967, we returned to the biblical corridor – a passage of land that cuts through the heart of Israel and the heart of Jewish history. 

This territory stretches from Nablus in the North, snakes its way through Jerusalem, bends toward Bethlehem and Hebron, finally leveling off in Beersheba. Our history, narrated in the book of Genesis, was launched in these lands, and our return to this biblical passageway signaled the resurgence of the Jewish history in a manner that the important but indefinite events of 1948 did not. 

 ‘STATUS QUO’ creator: Defense minister Moshe Dayan (2nd from L.)  walks through the Old City during the Six Day War, 1967, accompanied by chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Ze’evi and Gen. Uzi Narkiss. (credit: GPO FLICKR) ‘STATUS QUO’ creator: Defense minister Moshe Dayan (2nd from L.) walks through the Old City during the Six Day War, 1967, accompanied by chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Ze’evi and Gen. Uzi Narkiss. (credit: GPO FLICKR)
2) An emergent superpower

Life in Israel between 1948 and 1967 was spartan and unforgiving. Riddled by food rationing, strafed by numerous wars of attrition, and stifled by diplomatic isolation, life in Israel was harsh. Our beloved state provided a respite from the tumult and tragedy of the Holocaust, and it certainly fulfilled a centuries-long dream of resettling our homeland. However, reality in Israel still left a lot to the imagination. 

The miracles of 1967, the courage of our soldiers, and, of course, the palpable divine intervention created a swell of national pride or komemiyut, which transformed the fabric of Israeli society. Ironically, the War of Independence in 1948 is sometimes referred to as komemiyut because, for the first time in thousands of years, Jews defended themselves from military aggression. 

In truth, the miraculous events of 1967 established far more significant komemiyut than the ambiguous victory of 1948. 

3) Jews flocking home

The return to Jerusalem and the surrounding environs awakened international Jewish interest in our common homeland. Prior to 1967, much of the immigration to Israel consisted of aliyah of distress – Jews fleeing persecution in Arab countries. Between 1948 and 1967, the financial hardships in Israel were so severe that more people emigrated from Israel than to Israel. 

That all changed in 1967. The magnetizing effect of Jerusalem, as well as the slow but steady economic improvement in Israel, aroused Jewish interest across the globe. Many made aliyah, and many who didn’t, became more entrenched in Israel – through purchasing real estate or through increasing the frequency of their visits. 

Worldwide Jewish interest in Israel spiked after 1967. The broader Jewish world became shareholders in Israel. 

4) Gradual diplomatic acceptance

Prior to 1967, Israel was a diplomatic pariah. Despite the broad support afforded Israel during the 1947 UN vote, Israel was soon plunged into diplomatic isolation. Much of the Third World aligned itself with Arab opposition; diplomatic hostility toward our fledgling state was powered by the large Communist bloc that dominated Europe, China and parts of Latin America.

The US arming of Israel began in earnest only after the military victory in 1967. In 1967, we literally stood “alone” on one side of the river, facing off against an entire world. 

In 1967, we assumed the role of our ancient grandfather, Abraham, who had also stood alone against an entire world of idolatry. As our mission is to inspire the entire world toward utopia, international acceptance of Israel is a crucial element of that vision. Though full embrace of the Jews in their homeland will only be achieved when history ends, the slow but steady diplomatic progress witnessed over the past 20 years is part of our redemptive advance. 

5) Religious revival

The legendary scenes of Israeli soldiers sounding the shofar while standing at the newly liberated Western Wall galvanized an entire people. Witnessing God’s explicit intervention in the historical process prompted a revival of religious sentiment.

Over the past 55 years, Israel has rightly established itself as the epicenter of worldwide Torah study. The euphoric aftermath of 1967 launched the national religious world of yeshivot, which, alongside the haredi Torah world, has dramatically augmented the spread of Torah study. 

Beyond the advances in Torah and halachic observance, our country has also witnessed a revival of “traditionalism” among a majority of Israeli Jews who identify as masorti. Much of the Israeli population may not adhere strictly to Jewish law, but they believe deeply in God and in His historical mission for His people. The year 1967 altered the religious landscape of Israel! 

6) The confidence index of worldwide Jewry

Over the past 50 years, Jews across the world have become more engaged in local governance, culture and society. Previously, Jews envisioned themselves as living along the margins of society – barred from prestigious schools, law firms and country clubs. 

Modern Jewish communities exude more confidence and participate more extensively in their local societies than in earlier generations. Much of this confidence stems from the national pride or komemiyut achieved during 1967. Knowing that we have constructed a strong and successful Jewish state feeds Jewish confidence across the globe.

Six days and six seismic shifts in Jewish history! Six for six.  ■

The writer is a rabbi at Yeshivat Har Etzion/Gush, a hesder yeshiva. He has smicha and a BA in computer science from Yeshiva University, as well as a master’s degree in English literature from the City University of New York.