Israel’s government did not want to liberate Jerusalem. Or, to be more specific, the Labor and National Religious Party ministers did not want to liberate Jerusalem. “Who needs that whole Vatican?” Moshe Dayan asked.
Prime Minister Eshkol had an understanding with Hussein that there would be a bit of “pyrotechnics” in the Armon Hanatziv area of Jerusalem so he could show Egypt’s Naaser that he was doing something. But there was a Supreme Force that had other plans, and the Six-Day War became the war that military experts cannot logically explain. I call it “The War of Miracles.”
I became aware of one small aspect of these miracles by “coincidence.” I was driving home one evening approximately six years ago, listening to a radio interview with reserve General Avihu Ben Nun, who had participated in the war as a young pilot.
Ben Nun related that he had taken off with the entire Air Force, flying very low so as to keep off Jordan’s radar screens. That the planes reached Cairo without being detected or hitting each other is in itself a major miracle.
But something even bigger happened. While Israel’s air force was bombing the Egyptian airfield as instructed, a heavy Egyptian bomber that was about to land in the airfield surprised Ben Nun. He was forced to choose between hitting the bomber or carrying out his original mission. He chose to stay with his mission. Other Israeli jets chased the bomber, but its experienced pilot managed to escape them with impressive aeronautical skill.
Years later, when Ben Nun was a civilian, he met a Jordanian businessman who told him he was the air controller in the control tower monitoring Israel’s airports from Ramallah. In the days before the outbreak of fighting, Israel’s leadership begged Hussein not to join any war instigated by the Egyptian despot. The young Hussein was nearly convinced, but at the exact hour that Ben Nun and his fellow pilots were attacking Egypt, Naaser called Hussein and said, “Our airplanes are bombing Tel Aviv; Haifa is being shelled from the sea. Do you want to lose Jerusalem?”
Hussein was suspicious, so he called the air controller in the control tower. “Hussein asked me if I see Egyptian planes over Tel Aviv,” the Jordanian businessman told Ben Nun. “I told him that I don’t see anything of the kind. Then, while we were still talking, my screen suddenly filled with hundreds of Egyptian planes on their way to Tel Aviv. I excitedly reported the new information to the king.”
The air controller, who could not see the Israeli planes on their way to Egypt, could now see Ben Nun and his friends returning to Israel after destroying the Egyptian air force. At this point, they were flying at normal altitude. The air controller therefore thought they were Egyptian planes. That phone conversation convinced Hussein to enter the war, ultimately resulting in the liberation of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. If not for this wondrous “coincidence,” Jerusalem would have remained in Jordanian hands.
But that’s not all: “The only thing that I didn’t do right that day,” Ben Nun finished the interview, “was when I decided not to go after the Egyptian bomber. It turned out that the Egyptian Chief of Staff and the entire army command was in that airplane.”
It was then that I remembered a different interview with Uri Milstein in the Nekuda magazine, which illuminated the same story from a different angle. Milstein did not mention Ben Nun, but he did say that in the merit of the mistake of an Israeli pilot who decided not to down the Egyptian bomber, the Egyptian Chief of Staff was saved.
“That mistake turned out to be very fortunate,” Milstein explained. “The skillful evasion techniques of the Egyptian pilot shook the poor Egyptian chief of staff up, and while still in the plane he ordered his army to evacuate the entire Sinai Peninsula.”
The Egyptian armored forces were deeply entrenched in Sinai, Soviet-army style. Breaching that alignment could well have cost Israel many lives and significantly lengthened the war. But after the chief of staff’s directive, the Israeli jets refueled, took off again, and attacked the retreating Egyptian armored forces. The war in Sinai basically turned into a pursuit of riffraff beating a hasty retreat.
The miracles that took place in the battle for Jerusalem and its surroundings are too numerous to recount in one short article. But ultimately, Jerusalem was liberated – against the will of both the Arabs and the Jews.
One must believe in atheism with religious fervor in order not to see the hand of Divine Providence in the wondrous miracles woven together with precision throughout the war, presenting the Jews with the land of their forefathers on a silver platter.
Israel needs leadership that understands the significance of the gift that we received from our Father in Heaven – and does not turn its back on it.