Childhood memories can be dangerously deceptive, however, I can vividly remember my mother, this week 48 years ago, standing in our tiny kitchen in a flood of tears. These were tears of joy in response to an announcement on the Israeli radio that “Har habayit beyadeinu,” “The Temple Mount is in our hands.” Israeli forces had just taken over the Old City of Jerusalem after some harsh battles. For her generation of Holocaust survivors this conquest represented a mixture of relief from an embedded fear of the horrors of war, along with an atavistic reaction to a place that carries with it an enormous symbolism. The tears of joy for an Israeli military victory on three fronts, turned into decades of sorrow - the sorrow of war, terrorism, bloodshed and an oppressive occupation with no peaceful end in sight. For a five-year-old boy the days leading up to the Six Day War were full of excitement and heroism. I was filling bags of sand, painting light bulbs in blue, and crisscrossing windows with sticky tape as part of the home front effort. The dangers of war and their ghastly impact on the lives of millions of people were beyond my comprehension. It took me the better part of growing up to understand, that this hailed military success would turn into Israel’s biggest single curse in its short history. It ushered in an era of misguided heroism and false perception of invincibility, marred by religious nationalism and even messianism. In the process, Israel would lose some of its core values of social justice that were part of the country’s ethos in the pre-1967 era, though even then not all of its citizens were able to equally benefit from these ideas.
The most obvious and visible result of the post-1967 occupation is the mushrooming settlements. From the very modest beginnings of a few Jewish religious fanatics attempting to settle in Hebron back in 1968, today more than half a million settlers live in the West BankYossi Mekelberg