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The Battle for Jerusalem: June 5-7,1967

by Abraham Rabinovich

Bibliographic information

TitleThe Battle for Jerusalem: June 5-7,1967
AuthorAbraham Rabinovich
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2001
SubjectIsrael
Pages461


Description 

Abraham Rabinovich, veteran reporter for the Jerusalem Post, has interviewed more than 300 participants in order to reconstruct this vivid inside story of the dramatic events of June 5-7,1967: the Battle for Jerusalem. Enhanced by fascinating photographs and an epilogue tracing the subsequent lives and military careers of the key participants, Rabinovich's gripping narrative brings the reader to the scene of this brilliant military victory and emotional reunion of a people with their sacred city.

When I took up Abe Rabinovich's manuscript, I had thought merely to skim through it. After all, I had been there. But very soon I found myself reading this book from its first word to the very last. And while there were events of those historic days that I would never forget, and while the exhilaration and the trepidation, the untold strength and the exhaustion, would always remain vivid in my thoughts, many events had been hazed over by the twenty years that have passed. This account brought them to life as vividly as if they were just taking place.... Over the years [Rabinovich] has written some of the most incisive and poignant articles about life in our city and our country. Yet his account of the Battle for Jerusalem perhaps remains the most significant.

- From the Foreword by Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek





About the Author 

Abraham Rabinovich ---

Born in New York City and a graduate of Brooklyn College, Abraham Rabinovich served as a staff reporter with Newsday and other New York metropolitan area newspapers and as a foreign correspondent. He arrived in Israel five days before the Six Day War to cover the crisis and stayed on. His two daughters were born in Jerusalem. He is currently a feature writer with the Jerusalem Post and is author of several books.




Contents 

Illustrations

Foreword by Teddy Kollek

Preface to the 20th Anniversary Edition

  1. Crisis

  2. Preparation

  3. Waiting

  4. Countdown

  5. Monday

  6. War

  7. Counterattack

  8. Armored Attack

  9. Twilight

  10. Zero Hour

  11. Ammunition Hill

  12. Breakthrough

  13. Lost

  14. The Museum

  15. Link-Up

  16. Jewish Jerusalem

  17. Abu Tor

  18. Mopping Up

  19. Trapped

  20. The Temple Mount

  21. The Jericho Road

Tracings

Bibliography

Index



Excerpt 

All day long the projector crew had waited apprehensively in the Histadrut Building for nightfall, when they would go into action. In lighting up targets for the artillery observers, the men knew, they themselves would become the principal target in Jewish Jerusalem. Dennis Silk, the poet, had always believed that in peacetime a searchlight unit was a suitable assignment for an “artiste” like himself, but that in war the job carried exceptional hazards. He had worked as a proofreader at the Jerusalem Post and vividly recalled a story he had once handled describing a retaliation raid against a Syrian position. The Syrians had thrown on a projector that was eliminated by Israeli fire in twenty seconds. Silk had already been assigned to a searchlight unit at the time, and he had read the story with a pang of empathy for the Syrian crew.

At 7:45 P.M., just after total darkness had settled, the crew was ordered into action. The projectors were hauled out of their enclosures and trundled into the open. Silk felt an unexpected exhilaration in the physical effort of pushing his projector up a ramp and into battle. Jerusalem was spread out below him in the throes of apocalypse. Every quarter in the Jewish part of the city was being pounded by shellfire. Tracers reached toward each other across no-man's-land, and flares hung suspended on the horizon. An officer on the roof shouted, “Light” and ducked behind the parapet. Like a man pulling the switch of an electric chair in which he himself is sitting, Silk reached up and yanked the projector handle.

Mike Ronnen in the Pagi trench saw the light suddenly flick on, illuminating the Arab positions at the Police School opposite him. Far to the rear there was the sound of guns firing, and seconds later the area in the spotlight erupted in smoke and flying debris. The light switched off, but before the eyes had grown accustomed to the night again the projector was holding another position in its glare. For the men in the trench, who had endured an unremitting pounding from the Jordanians since morning, the sight was euphoric. It was as if someone were putting a giant finger on their tormentors and crushing them. A massive barrage hit beyond the Arab quarter of Shuafat to the north, the direction from which the Jordanian twenty-five-pounders had been firing. The enemy shelling became even more frenzied; shells hit just behind the Pagi trench, making an ugly clanking sound before exploding. The shells were red hot and coming in so low that Ronnen could read his watch in their glow. The men had become almost indifferent by now to the fire that had enveloped them since morning. When a supply vehicle came up, Professor Don Patinkin—American-born chairman of the Hebrew University Economics Department and a volunteer in the unit—climbed out of the trench to help unload it.

The Israeli counterbarrage—delivered with only a portion of the guns available—was largely confined to the northern edge of the city and failed to revive weary troops along other parts of the line. Shells had snapped communication lines, and some of the troops knew nothing more than what they could hear and see. What they could hear was Jordanian shelling all around them, and what they could see was a small but steadily growing number of casualties. Officers, hoarse from shouting above the noise of firing all day, found it difficult to talk. Many of the troops had had nothing to eat because it was too dangerous to bring supplies up to them.

In the trench at Bait Yisrael, where the men had been cut off under direct fire and shelling all day, a supply detail guided by an intelligence officer reached them after darkness. The officer found the men in the trench dispirited. Their ammunition was almost exhausted, and casualties lay at the bottom of the trench awaiting evacuation. The commander of the position summoned his men in a weary voice to distribute the ammunition. The intelligence officer passed on the report that 200 Egyptian planes were down. “You're kidding!” someone said happily. When the officer assured them it was true, he could hear the figure being passed along the trench. As the supply party headed for the rear, they could hear the firing from the trench pick up.

With the coming of darkness the Jordanians had begun putting heavy fire on the Mandelbaum Gate crossing, the only direct road connection between the two halves of the city. Their evident concern that an attack might be launched from this direction was warranted, since the paratroopers had indeed contemplated such a move. Inside the Mandelbaum customs post the Jerusalem Brigade defenders could feel the walls shake from mortar explosions. A door on the first floor was blown in. Shells crashed through the roof of the “pope's shed,” the large hangarlike construction put up outside the building at the time of the pontiff's visit.

The Jordanians nervously sent up flares over the crossing every few moments, and the men at the windows twisted back into the shadows until the light had died. Except for the passing flarelight it was black inside the building, and the men had to feel their way along the walls. A soldier at an upstairs firing hole was killed, and in the darkness his body was passed down the reopened staircase to the first floor only with considerable difficulty. Near midnight movement was spotted on the Jordanian side of the crossing. Captain Nitzan, the cool young Jerusalemite commanding the sector, called for shelling to break up a possible attack. Headquarters asked for a fire to be lit in the field on the edge of no-man'sland, to serve as a marker for the artillery spotter. The assignment was extremely hazardous. Not only would the men carrying it out be exposed to the steady mortar fire, but also in lighting the beacon they would expose themselves to the Jordanian front-line positions. Two young unmarried soldiers were chosen, one of them having volunteered. The volunteer, a Moroccan-born youth named Dadon, took off his boots to make less noise as he crossed within hearing of the Jordanian positions. Two high-school girls from a neighboring house, who had taken shelter in the building earlier in the day, told Dadon and his companion that they would pray for them. The two soldiers slipped out of the building, sprinted across to the field, and started a fire in the stubble. They returned safely to the building only to look back and see that the fire had died. They ventured out again. This time when they returned to the building the sky was red behind them.

Along the city line other men left the security of blockhouses to man forward listening posts that offered little or no cover. At the principal blockhouse near Mandelbaum Gate, Lieutenant Genzel made use of the hidden door shown him by the neighborhood children to place two men on the far side of the anti-sniper wall facing no-man's-land. The lookouts could see up and down the 20-meter-wide street between the lines and warn of any attempt by Arab sappers to cross from the blockhouses opposite and place charges against the adjacent apartment building, whose shelter was filled with residents, or against the blockhouse itself. Except for the darkness, however, the pair were naked to the enemy positions, and when they were spotted and fired on during the night they were obliged to pull back.

At Notre Dame a few men slipped out of the main building and set up an advanced listening post in a small structure closer to Damascus Gate.

Perhaps the most exposed outpost in Jerusalem was on Abu Tor. The position was just below the observation post to which tourists were taken for a distant view of the golden Dome of the Rock inside the Old City. The Jordanian strongpoints were just down the slope, beyond a tangle of barbed wire. Three soldiers manned the outpost, among them Arye Newman, the English-born rabbi who had gone to work at the Jewish Agency in the morning feeling like a shirker. Two of the Israelis lay in a bunker, which provided adequate shelter from the steady machinegun fire beating about them. The field of vision from inside, however, was limited, and the third man had to be posted outside to ensure that there was no movement on the flanks. Their orders were to report enemy activity but not to fire unless attacked.

In the middle of the night Newman's turn came to serve as outside man. Bullets struck the other side of the meter-high stone wall he lay behind or skimmed just overhead. Periodically he would inch his head over the wall, but he could see no movement except shadows scudding away from falling flares. To the left the Hinnom Valley was lit by a fire burning through the enormous conical roof of the Dormition Church, atop Mount Zion. The night was cold, and Newman covered himself with a blanket from a bedroll. The chances of getting hit by a bullet were not too remote, but there was certainly no sense freezing to death.

The fire on the roof of the Dormition had been started in the afternoon by an Arab shell, and by dark it was eating through the lead plates covering the roof. The molten metal ran down the drainpipes or hung from the roof's edge like tallow. A unit of second-line troops arrived on the hill after nightfall to relieve the first-line unit, which had been engaging the Arab positions all day. The relief force came through the tunnel that crossed the Hinnom Valley from Yemin Moshe, but for some reason the first-line unit left the hill on the open road. The men walked gingerly, almost tiptoeing, as they passed beneath the Old City wall and crossed the valley to rejoin the rest of their battalion.



Reviews 

The reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 is one of the great dates in all Jewish history. Symbolically it heralds the end of two thousand years of Diaspora. Abraham Rabinovich's extraordinary work not only gives a detailed military account but deals with the figures, large and small, who brought about this incredible event.

- Leori Uris, Author of Exodus

Long respected as one of Israel's ablest journalists, Abe Rabinovich has described a historic episode in prose that is as graphic as it is lucid. The Battle for Jerusalem is deservedly acclaimed as a classic of its genre.

- Howard M. Sachar, George Washington University,

Author of A History ol Israel

Reliable report, based on painstaking research, this book permits us an almost insider's knowledge of the Battle of Jerusalem. Surely one of the most exciting and interesting accounts of one of the gripping episodes of the Six Day War.

- Jehuda Reinharz, Brandeis University, Author of Chaim

Weizmanri: The Making of a Zionist Leader






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