May 29, 2017

“The Temple Mount is in Our Hands”

Israel is currently in the midst of celebrations marking the epic Six Day War, fought in literally less than a week in June 1967.

The short story, known to readers of “Israel Watch,” is that various Arab states threatened the small Jewish state in the spring of 1967. Egypt (oddly, not an Arab nation, but a Muslim one) was the most belligerent, as General Nasser massed 100,000 troops in the Sinai. Like many despots before and after him, he promised to swipe the Jews into the sea.

Nasser dropped dead of a heart attack three years later, taking his place in the pit with Pharaoh, Hitler, etc.

Faced with a true existential threat, the Israelis grappled for weeks with what to do. Interestingly, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol wasn’t a particularly strong character. Yet when he approved orders to strike at Egypt’s air force in the early morning of June 5, he was poised to preside over the greatest Jewish battlefield victories in 2,000 years.

Implementing a years-in-the-making plan code-named “Focus,” the Israeli Air Force struck at Egypt’s planes as they sat exposed on the ground. Within 30 minutes, they had destroyed half of them and from that point on, the IAF had air superiority over the Middle East.

There are almost countless storylines associated with the war, but one cannot escape the supernatural feel of it all. One can of course deny that there is a Deity. One can simply reject the Bible.

But one cannot adequately explain it all away.

Think of it: at 19, Israel was a very young country and a very small one, vulnerable to enemy attack. She gathered her sons and daughters though and as Yitzhak Rabin orchestrated a masterful battle plan, the IDF struck at Egypt and Syria simultaneously, then warned Jordan to stay out of the conflict. When King Hussein ignored the advice, he lost the biblical heartland to the modern state of Israel.

That mistake has paved the way for almost a half-million Jews to settle in that heartland, and according to Scripture (Amos 9:15), they will never be uprooted again.

The Israelis also reunified Jerusalem, as paratroopers from the 66th Brigade raced to the Temple Mount and raised the Star of David.

As Michael Oren wrote in his masterful “In Six Days,” Israel stampeded over several armies in the march for Jerusalem:

“Only Iraq’s 8th Brigade tried to engage in combat and to cross the Damiya Bridge, but there it was bombarded by Israeli planes and decimated. The IAF also destroyed a PLO battalion and attacked the H-3 air base in western Iraq— Hussein’s last hope for air cover. Though two of their Mirages were shot down, the Israelis left behind rows of smoking MiG’s and Hawker Hunters.”

The moments surrounding the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem are almost biblical:

“Gur and his men, meanwhile, stepped into the tranquil, tree-lined plaza known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif) and to Jews as the Temple Mount (Har ha-Bayit). The site of both the First and Second Temples, believed to be the scene of Isaac’s binding and of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven, it was a Holy Place par excellence, revered by millions.

“Arik Akhmon, the intelligence officer, described the moment: ‘There you are on a half-track after two days of fighting, with shots still filling the air, and suddenly you enter this wide open space that everyone has seen before in pictures, and though I’m not religious, I don’t think there was a man who wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion. Something special had happened.’

“After a brief skirmish with Jordanian riflemen, Gur radioed Narkiss the three words—seven in English—that would resonate for decades afterward.

Har ha-Bayit be-Yadenu’—‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’

Rabin himself, though not religious, understood the moment:

“The sacrifices of our comrades have not been in vain … The countless generations of Jews murdered, martyred and massacred for the sake of Jerusalem say to you, ‘Comfort yet, our people; console the mothers and the fathers whose sacrifices have brought about redemption.’”

I will be in Jerusalem next week, on June 7. It will be my seventh trip to Israel, for which I am most grateful.

If you cannot visit Israel, don’t let that discourage you in the least. Because wherever you are, you can join me and millions of others in celebrating this historic moment…in your heart.