It's entitled "A Personal Memory of Being a Spectator of the Six-Day War: From a Great and Safe Distance".
(The photos of aspects of the war, added by me, Daphne, are from this documentary.)
Writes Brian Goldfarb:
On Monday, 5 June, 1967, the day the Six Day War broke out, I drove south from the north-east of England towards London, where I had been born and grown up, to spend the summer vacation at my parents’ home, no longer, in a very real sense, my home, although I would stay there on and off, for the next two years until I got married.
Now there’s a line for the opening of an autobiography! Which this is not.
I had just finished the first year of my first “proper” job since graduating, teaching undergraduate Sociology at a Polytechnic in the same north-east of the first sentence. I decided to stop off at my alma mater in the East Midlands, to break the journey.
By early afternoon, I was sitting in what would have been, in term time, the student coffee bar, but was, now, empty of all but a few Faculty and graduate students. Among the Faculty were two Eastern European Jewish emigrés – typical of Daniel Snowman’s Hitler’s Emigrés, as his excellent book is entitled – the Professor of Sociology and the Senior Research Fellow, both pretending (as it turned out) to be disinterested in what transpired in the Middle East.
Whereas, the year before, I would not have dared to sit at the same table as them and they would have deemed it impolitic for me to do so (but both would have been too polite to say so), now, as a graduate of the University and a teacher of Sociology to boot, and thus part of the University’s sociology teaching mafia, it was entirely acceptable for me to join them.
Until, at about 3.00 pm, someone entered the room with the first edition of the local evening paper. This reported that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) had, effectively, destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground in a first strike carried out shortly after the Egyptians had returned after their dawn patrols.
The tension at our table dropped by many degrees, and the emigrés could go back to pretending that they cared less about what happened in the Middle East. After all, Israel had survived and the rest was detail*.
But I knew better.
By the time I reached my parents’ home early that evening and caught up with the news, it became clear that, indeed, the rest was commentary. Michael Elkins, the American-born BBC Middle East Correspondent, was reporting that (to paraphrase his words) "to those familiar with the first three days of the 1956 Sinai campaign, the names would be very familiar". We must bear in mind that he had to contend with Israeli military censorship, anxious not to give too much away. My response was along the lines of "My God, they (the IDF) are cutting through the Egyptians like a hot knife through butter". And indeed they were.
By the end of fighting that day (after the initial air strikes starting at 07.46), the IAF had destroyed most of the Egyptian air force (at least 150 aircraft destroyed on the ground) and the IDF had cut off the Gaza Strip from the rest of Egypt and were advancing into the Sinai Peninsula at pace.
It appears (and I knew this much later) that the Israelis had used "back channels" to warn King Hussein against joining in the fighting, not wishing to fight a two-front war, even with internal lines of communication and supply (the IDF could move men, materials and other equipment around very easily without long, circuitous journeys). He preferred to believe Nasser’s claims of being close to victory over the "Zionist entity", and paid for his naivety.
By this time, half-way through the first day, Israeli High Command (and politicians, including the "old man", i.e., Ben Gurion) were convinced (rightly, as we now know) that fighting a war on three fronts, while risky, was a risk that had paid off.
Perhaps the most emotive event for us oldies took place at 03.00 the following morning, when Latrun was captured. Anyone who has seen the film Cast A Giant Shadow (starring Kirk Douglas) will be aware how sweet this victory would have been (the film was released, fortuitously, in 1966).
That I do remember. And not, all these years later, fondly. If only there had been another way to persuade Nasser to go for a cease fire earlier...
It took a mere two days for the IDF to destroy the Syrian army and drive a huge wedge into Syria. The wedge is such that, if Assad were stupid enough to attack Israel, the IDF could be destroying his Presidential Palace in Damascus within an hour: the road is open to the IDF.
The minimum requirement would be a stable regime in Damascus able to guarantee a peace treaty. Oddly, after all these years, and especially since Syria started to fall apart five or six years ago, the Druze who dominate on the Golan Plateau are starting to accept Israeli identity cards and turn their attention to studying (for the young adults) within Israel, alongside their Israeli Druze counterparts.
Although written with help from a couple of timelines, this is a slice of memory. I hope it rings true.
*This is an obscure reference to the Talmudic tale that Rabbi Hillel was asked by a non-Jew to explain Judaism while standing on one leg. He responded, saying "Do unto others that which you would have them unto you", then lowered the raised leg. "But what about everything else?" the non-Jew exclaimed. "The rest" Hillel said, "is commentary."