Most believing Jews (and even some religious Christians – see “God’s Hand in the Six Day War” from the Christian Broadcasting Network, available on YouTube) perceive Israel’s stunning victory in the Six Day War as another of many instances of Hashem’s evident hand guiding the course of Jewish History. The result of this war was so implausible that the inescapable conclusion is (as we recite during Hallel, Tehilim 118:23) “Mei’eit Hashem Hayetah Zot,” that this could have been only from Hashem.
A typical expression of this attitude is presented in Lawrence Kelemen’s Permission to Believe (pp. 79-81):
“In 1967, an impatient [Egyptian President] Nasser violated the truce (from the 1956 War between Egypt and Israel) by moving 100,000 troops into the Sinai. On May 15, he ordered the withdrawal of the United Nations peacekeeping units, which complied instantly. On May 22, Nasser blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, and eight days later he signed a military pact with King Hussein of Jordan. The same day, under Jordanian guidance, Iraqi forces took positions on the Israeli-Jordanian border.
On June 5, reacting to intelligence reports that war was again imminent, Israel launched a preemptive strike. In a single day, it destroyed [almost] the entire Egyptian air force. Jordan and Syria both declared war. In six days Israel defeated all three armies, each larger than the size of its own. The Israelis retook Sinai, captured [the old city of] Jerusalem [and the West Bank] and Syria’s Golan Heights. To this day many military experts are at a loss to explain the Jews’ 1967 victory.”
A story that illustrates this point is recounted by Rav Berel Wein. He reports that a West Point general once remarked that though the United States Military Academy studies wars fought throughout the world, it does not study the Six Day War – because what concerns West Point is strategy and tactics, not miracles. Indeed, Rav Yehuda Amital recounted that before the Six Day War there were American Jewish leaders who pleaded with the Israeli government to evacuate the children from Israel, since the annihilation of Israel was expected. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel had designated public parks as burial sites, as over 80,000 deaths were expected. The dramatic and highly unexpected turn of events instantly took us (to paraphrase the Haggadah) “from darkness to light.”
We would like to add point to some of the specific evidence of Hashem’s hand in the Six Day War based on Dr. Michael Oren’s authoritative work Six Days of War and an insight of the Vilna Gaon (at the beginning of his commentary to Megilat Esther). The Vilna Gaon notes that on occasion Hashem subtly makes our enemies act foolishly, such as Achashveirosh’s series of ridiculous decisions (including Vashti’s stubborn refusal to appear before the king) that led to Vashti’s removal from power and Haman foolishly responding to Achashveirosh that the one the king wishes to honor should ride on the king’s horse and wear the king’s crown (this deepened Achashveirosh’s suspicion of Haman and greatly contributed to the decision to hang Haman).
In Sefer Shofetim the Moabite king Eglon (Perek 3) and his team of bodyguards acted incredibly foolishly by allowing a representative of a conquered nation, Ehud, to speak privately with Eglon, leaving the latter exposed to attack with no one to help him. In addition, the Moabite security team in its foolishness did not properly check Ehud for weapons and he managed to sneak in a weapon which he used to kill Eglon, leading to the end of Moabite rule over part of Israel.
Megilat Esther at first glance seems quite secular. For example, it contains no mention of God and even seems to deliberately omit mentioning Hashem’s name (see, for example, Esther 4:14-16). One has to look behind the superficial presentation of events in Megilat Esther to discover Hashem, such as why Esther among all the beautiful women of the Persian Empire was chosen as queen, why Mordechai foiled a plot to kill Achashveirosh, and why Achashveirosh was sleepless and reading about Mordechai’s actions the night that Haman came to ask permission to execute Mordechai.
The world functions today as depicted in Megilat Esther. Hashem has placed a secular veneer upon the world and we must use our common sense to peel back this secular layer in order to be able to discover Hashem. In the words of Shir HaShirim 2:9, “Behold here He is, watching from behind the windows and peers through the latticework.”
Let us now examine some of the foolish actions of the Arab leadership before and during the Six Day War in an effort to see how Hashem was hiding behind the latticework ensuring our victory against all odds. We should clarify that Dr. Oren does not highlight at all the role of Hashem in the Six Day War as his work is solely secular. We seek to supplement his excellent book by pointing out how that when so many coincidences work in our favor, it can be reasonably attributed only to Hashem.
The Egyptian Leadership Before the War
The most well-known fiasco was the Egyptian air force leaving almost all of its planes outside their hangars, fully exposed to Israeli attack, which the Israelis destroyed with relative ease at the very beginning of the war. Michael Oren (p. 171) records, “Though proposals for constructing concrete hangars had been submitted by the air force and approved, none had ever been implemented.” There were many more Egyptian blunders. Oren (pp. 159-160) describes the shocking disorganization of the Egyptian army as it mobilized for an attack on Israel:
“Thousands of [Egyptian] reservists continued to arrive without equipment or food or a sense of either place or purpose. A report prepared by the army’s planning wing concluded that Egypt needed another six months at least to shore up its Sinai defenses for battle, but the recommendation went unheeded and perhaps even unread. Instead, chaos reigned. General Tawfiq ‘Abd al-Nabi….arrived in Sinai to take command of an antitank brigade only to find that he had no artillery, no mortars and only seven tanks borrowed from another unit. His soldiers, moreover, knew nothing of tank warfare. Dozens of units had been exhausted, their vehicles worn out, transferring back and forth across the desert.”
Moreover, before the Israeli preemptive strike, the Egyptians – unbeknownst to the Israelis (who, however, suspected that an attack was imminent but were still pursuing diplomatic solutions to the crisis), Americans, and even Soviets – were planning an attack on Israel which they code named “Operation Dawn” (Oren pp. 92-97). The Israelis communicated their fears to the Americans who informed the Soviet leaders. The Soviets, in turn, communicated this message to Nasser who erroneously concluded that this was proof that the Israelis had accessed Egyptian secrets and compromised them. Nasser canceled the offensive only fifteen minutes before it was scheduled to begin, when Egyptian pilots were already in their planes (Oren pp.119-121).
Oren concludes: “The Egyptian offensive was all but dead, struck down by a chance (emphasis added) intervention just short of the H-hour.” Believing Jews do not see this as a mere chance intervention, but as divine intervention allowing Israel to take control of the crisis with a preemptive strike, rather than be forced to react to an Egyptian attack.
Egyptian Leadership During the War
On the first day of the war as Israeli warplanes were on their way to destroy the Egyptian planes, the Jordanians (who possessed the most sophisticated radar facility in the Middle East) detected the Israeli attack and communicated the attack to the Egyptian defense minister. The Jordanian communication, however, was indecipherable, since (Oren p. 172) “The Egyptians had changed their encoding frequencies the previous day, but without updating the Jordanians….But even if those messages could have been read, the Egyptian defense minister was not present to read them. He had gone to bed only a few hours before [the Israeli attack] leaving strict orders not to be disturbed. Similarly absent were the officers in charge of decoding and the air operations chief.…Air force intelligence also reported extensively on the Israeli attack, but the officers at the Supreme Headquarters….ignored them.”
The blunders continued on the second day of the war. The Egyptian leadership (Oren p. 214) understood the situation as for more desperate than it truly was. “Rather than rallying their still extensive forces, digging in during the day and counterattacking at night when the Israeli Air Force’s edge was blunted, Egypt’s leaders ordered a wholesale and wildly disorganized retreat.”
We conclude our discussion next week by noting major lapses of judgment on the part of the Jordanian, Syrian, and Soviet leadership.