May 1967: Prelude to War

In May of 1967, the state of Israel was only 19 years old. At its inception in 1948, five Arab armies had coordinated a military invasion to prevent the creation of the small Jewish country. But Israel’s War of Independence succeeded in repelling the forces bent on Israel’s destruction. Israel reclaimed sovereignty over the ancient Jewish homeland, making way for the establishment of a Jewish country after 2,000 years of statelessness and periods of persecution.

 

Yet despite Israel’s success in creating a new country, it did not enjoy peace with its neighbors. Terrorism and frequent attacks on three borders kept Israel in a perpetual state of alert.

 

To the north, from the Golan Heights, Syria shelled Jewish communities below on a regular basis. In the South and East, Arab terrorists from Egyptian-controlled Gaza and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank infiltrated and perpetrated attacks on Israeli civilians, killing 400 in the 19 years since Israeli independence.

 

Surrounded by enemy neighbors and only nine miles wide at its narrowest point, Israel was vulnerable. The attacks reached the point that they were condemned as “deplorable” by then-Secretary General of the United Nations U Thant.

 

Although the Jewish state had been welcomed into the United Nations and hailed by the international community, its Arab neighbors rejected its very right to exist, preparing to resume a war for Israel’s destruction which they had halted 19 years earlier. The Arab buildup for all-out war was very near.

 

 


About the project

In the weeks ahead, we invite you to experience the events of May and June 1967 as they unfolded, culminating in the Six-Day War. On this web page, we will be sharing a series of 2-3 minute videos that will give you a “you are there” perspective of the events of 50 years ago based on archival footage and academic research.

 

We will share a new video each week, and then one video a day starting June 4.  The videos are produced by Jerusalem U and the Jerusalem Post.

 

The Six-Day War Project is a partnership between Jerusalem U, Jerusalem Post, Israel Action Network/Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Center for Israel Education (CIE). The CIE’s Prof. Kenneth W. Stein is supervising the historical content of the project.


 

Find out more

Visit the Six-Day War Project website to explore an interactive timeline, read details about the events covered in the commemorative video series and more.

 

The videos:

In this 12-part commemorative series (updated daily starting June 5), you will learn about the regional atmosphere leading up to the 1967 Six-Day War, and find out about the early steps that led to the war that changed the future of Israel.

Day 1 of the War

With 200,000 Arab troops massed at its borders, Israel launches a pre-emptive attack.

Day 3 of the War

Witness the dramatic moment when a 2,000-year-old dream became a reality.

Day 5 of the War

Egypt's President Nasser publicly announces the truth – the Egyptian army has been defeated.

Day 2 of the War

Learn what factors prevented Israel from firing on the Jordanian army in Jerusalem.

Day 4 of the War

Experience the amazement at the Jewish People’s return to their biblical homeland.

Day 6 of the War

Experience the jubilation as the war ends and learn about the implications of Israel’s victory.


 

Why Did Israel Go to War?

Part 1: Learn about the early actions in the region that led to the 1967 Six-Day War

Egypt Imposes Blockade

Part 3: Israel pursues a diplomatic solution, but Egypt blockades the Straits of Tiran.

Egypt Expels UN Observers

Part 2: Tensions escalate as Egypt's President Nasser makes aggressive moves

'War of No Choice'

Experience the fear the outnumbered Israelis felt as they prepared for an inevitable war.