50 years ago, Israel fought and won the Six-Day War. Considered to be the shortest war in military history, that brief period in 1967 was transformative. Technically, it is also one of the longest conflicts ever, as even today, there hasn’t been a peace treaty signed between some of the combatants. It was an incredible victory for Israel - they captured Jerusalem bringing the Kotel HaMa’aravi, the Western Wall, under Jewish control.
In addition, they conquered the Sinai, Gaza Strip and West Bank. For the Palestinians, it was a catastrophe with unbelievable repercussions. It altered the balance of power in the region and changed forever Israel’s relationship with its neighbours and the world. 50 years later, Israel, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the world and global organizations - such as the UN - are still confronted by the repercussions of the war.
The war also changed Judaism in the diaspora. Jews from the United States - to the Soviet Union and Argentina - began to publicly identify as Jewish. Some wearing kippot on the street. There was a feeling of pride and strength among Jews - in some cases for the first time since the Shoah. In Israel, the occupied territories play a role in the religious divide between those who see the Land of Israel as a sacred gift from God promised by God to our ancestors, and others who see it as land to be leveraged in exchange for peace and security.
As a result of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War that followed in 1973, Israel emerged more secure. On the other hand, it went from being the underdog fighting wars of survival to an occupier. Many Israelis looked upon their own country in a new light, one that was more morally ambiguous at best and more problematic.
Israel is a complex land, multi-faceted in ways that can make us proud and/or cringe. It can be easier to avoid talking about it because of the extreme and passionately opposing views it evokes in people. However, we, as Jews, have a connection to Israel whether we love it, hate it or are indifferent. We cannot walk away from it or ignore it.
Israel, in its own inimitable way, affects our life and our conscience, calling on us to take a stand one way or another. We can be proud of what it has accomplished, for example in the field of medicine and technology, and yet find the politics and religion of the state problematic or reprehensible. Like the Six-Day War itself, Israel is full of contradictions and far-reaching implications for us, our Judaism and in many other ways. I invite you to engage with it in whatever way suits you and your conscience best.
On a more local level, we want to celebrate the accomplishments of our young adults. We have two Bnai Mitzvah coming up - Milo Lester and Gabriel Cohen and we extend to them and their families Mazal Tov- congratulations on all they have learned and accomplished. We also extend congratulations to all our graduates who have completed high school and are heading off to university. We wish you success in the future.
Rabbi Ira Goldberg