A soldier recalls all her previous visits to Jerusalem, standing on Mount Zion and looking longingly at the Old City. After the Six Day War, she could go there.
Growing up on a religious kibbutz in the Galilee in the 1950s and 1960s, there was no question about serving in the army. It was part of our education and I was proud to serve.
Israel was very different then. It was a very small country and the borders were very close. I spent most of my army service in Ma’ale Gilboa, which today is in the mountains overlooking the Bet Shean Valley. In the early 1960s half of the mountain was in range of Jordanian artillery.
The year 1965 was a thrilling time for me. I was a new soldier and marched in the Independence Day Parade in Tel Aviv. This was the first time Israel displayed its Hawk missiles. The parades in those days – which were held in Tel Aviv, Haifa or Beersheba – were intended to show our strength.
The international situation was too sensitive for a parade in Jerusalem. Also, the border was too close. The first parade in Jerusalem was in 1967, a few weeks before the Six Day War.
Spring 1967 was a very tense time for all of us. I finished my army service at the end of 1966. A few months later I was riding on a bus from Haifa back to the kibbutz. This ride takes about 45 minutes today. In those days it took several hours.
The bus driver turned on the news and we heard that Egypt’s President Nasser had closed the Straits of Tiran, effectively cutting off Israel’s access to the Red Sea. My heart skipped a beat from fear. But hearing the Arab majority on the bus cheering was much more frightening.
It was clear to me that we were heading for war. The question was when, where and what the outcome would be.
During my teen years on the kibbutz, Rabbi Moshe Levinger was our rabbi. He spoke to the teenagers every Shabbat afternoon. I still remember him describing his vision that one day there will be a war that Israel will not start. It would be a very short war and as a result all of Israel would be returned to us. Our goal would be to settle as much of the land as possible.
I was recalling these talks when the war began in June 1967. His prophecy came true.
I had been to Jerusalem before, but on all my previous visits we had stood on Mount Zion and looked longingly at the Old City. I still remember the heady feeling that summer after the Six Day War, when we came to the Old City and could actually go to the Kotel (Western Wall).
Today it seems like a cliché. But in 1967 it was a dream come true.