It is now June 4th. In Israel, forty years ago, the world was about to end.
Abba Eban had been dispatched to the US days earlier to plead for the life of Israel. Successive members of the Johnson administration said that Israel was being alarmist and that she would get no help. Finally, President Johnson himself shook his head.
To his credit, the President did ask the CIA whether the Mossad might have a betterÂ picture of the situation. However, the CIAÂ could not acceptÂ the possibility thatÂ anyone could haveÂ better intelligence,Â especially sinceÂ theirÂ own sourcesÂ were coming up empty. The CIAÂ was unable toÂ believe that Israel’s intelligence servicesÂ had intercepted agreements between Syria, Egypt, and Jordan to annihilate Israel.
With the numerical and strategicÂ superiority of the Arab armies, Israel knew that her existence was now measured in hours – unless something could be done first.
Rebuffed by the Johnson administration and faced with her imminent destruction, Israel made the fateful decision to try and evenÂ the heavy odds against herÂ byÂ initiating the attack.Â With so little support from the West, maintaining a static defense and allowing the Arab armies to choose theÂ time and place of battle was suicide – unthinkable. So, late on June 4th,Â sealed orders went out to the air force to launch Operation Focus the next morning.
But, on June 4th, the average Israeli could not have known what would transpire the next day. The soldiers on the front lines could not have known that the next morningÂ would begin the war. The wives and children and parents could only wonder if tomorrow, or the next day, would be the end.
No one, except a select fewÂ knew anything of Israel’s plans.Â Some few more knew parts of the plan, and the Israeli army and air force had trained withÂ the hope of winning, not losing. But, for all that, optimism was in short supply.
Those who knew what Israel faced had little to hope for, and everyone prayed for a miracle.
Israelis crouched around their radios waiting to hear some ray of light that they could pinÂ some expectationÂ of survival to. Instead, they heard the steadyÂ drum beat of rejection. Each and every nation of the West shook their head. The U.N. said that they could do nothing.
At the same time, Arab radio stations spoke of the annihilation of Israel. The calls to prayer from the mosques reverberated with the rejoicing of Israel’s eventual destruction.
In Israel, each day saw the cloud of despairÂ pressedÂ tighter andÂ tighter.Â June 4thÂ had to have beenÂ the darkest of them all. To the average Israeli, it was The Holocaust all over again. Just a generation before, their fathers and grandfathers had died in the gas chambers and death camps of Hitler, and now they were about to die at the hands of the Arabs.
If you can imagine that, you will begin to understand.