Opinion

Lots of Reasons to Celebrate Six-Day War’s 50th Anniversary

At the many conferences marking the Six-Day War (or the 'occupation'), most of the panelists engage in criticism of Israel, sometimes lethal, especially over our relations with the Arabs

President Reuven Rivlin, Mayor Nir Barkat and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot attending a Jerusalem Day event at the Western Wall, May 24, 2017.
Mark Naiman/GPO

The Six Day War’s 50th anniversary events are sporadic, unimpressive and certainly unexciting. The numerous achievements, some truly wondrous, are played down. The official celebrations are concentrated, rightly, in Jerusalem. But why was the Sinai campaign, which determined the war’s outcome, abandoned? And what about conquering the Golan Heights, which lifted the Syrian threat from Israel’s northern residents?

It is very clear that the inability to rise above petty issues has afflicted even the organizers – especially the initiators – of the state events.

In 1967 Israel’s population was about 3 million. Today more than 8 million people live in it. No state in the Western world has (almost) tripled its population in the past 50 years. We are undoubtedly an optimistic society, confident in the state’s future and the majority – some 81 percent – are proud to be Israeli.

Despite numerous mishaps, the Israeli economy has grown since 1967 by thousands of percent (outpacing most Western economies), becoming a pioneer, inventor and innovator in key areas of the global economy. The health system, which (genuine) media exposés keep criticizing, is, despite its shortcomings, one of the most progressive in the world, providing advanced healthcare to the country’s population at large (not only to citizens). So it is in other areas as well, certainly in defense, culture, art, welfare (even here, though there’s a lot more that should be done and isn’t being done).

If we move away from the troubling daily chronicles and compare what we had to what we’ve attained – and under such security and social conditions – we’ll have difficulty finding a state, even in the West, that can equal or even compare to Israel.

Every healthy body, private or public, more successful or less so, celebrates its landmark events and dates. Then, as in a family, the divisions, disputes and even failures are laid aside or forgotten for a moment. People highlight the good, the festive and what has been achieved despite the failures. That is the nature of the balanced human being and only thus – due to the ability to distinguish good from evil, sacred from profane – has humanity come to this point. When focusing on the darkness becomes a chronic disposition, it’s difficult to find the strength to move out of the darkness into the light.

Today there is no university, institute or organization that doesn’t hold conferences to mark the Six-Day War (or the “occupation”). Most of the subjects, like most lecturers, deal mainly with the empty half of the glass. They engage in criticism, sometimes lethal, and in laying blame – especially when dealing with our relations with the Arabs – on Israel.

When I attend such events, as a panel member or listener, I wonder what drives the agenda-setters, or most of the speakers, not to discuss – if only to go through the motions – the enlightened, positive side of the past 50 years. Don’t they exist? That is the current agenda of most of the media establishment, even in these days of attempts to balance it somewhat.

It seems that the difference between the right and left is more mental than political. While the right conveys hope and faith in the people and state, the parties of the left convey mainly gloom and doom. In the state’s early days it was the opposite, and this was one of the main reasons people voted for the left. As time went by – the turning point being the Yom Kippur War – when the left’s masses and leaders projected a loss of direction, voters started shifting toward those who radiated the opposite: optimism and faith in their justice of their path.

That is the major reason for the 1977 upheaval. And as long as the left remains in this mental-political state, no counter-upheaval will take place.