The Voice of Lakewood, an Orthodox Jewish magazine based in Ocean County, NJ asked Rabbi Shapiro for his opinion on whether Israel’s victory in the six-day war of 1967 was miraculous, as many Zionists Jews claim. The following was his response.
In response to the recent heated discussion in the CoffeeRoom regarding whether or not Israel is a miracle, we reached out to Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, author of The Empty Wagon: Zionism’sJourney from Identity Crisis toIdentity Theft, for clarification. Following is Rabbi Shapiro’sresponse.To the Editor, In response to your inquiry regarding whether Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War was “miraculous,” the answer is simple: it was not. I wrote and documented this at length in my book. Here I will explain in brief:
Israel emerging victorious in the Six-Day War was the outcome expected by all intelligence agencies and military experts without exception. Not only the CIA, as your readers have correctly noted, but Israel’s own generals and the Mossad as well. And those agencies who submitted a timeline for Israel’s victory (including the CIA and Mossad) predicted Israel would destroy the Arab armies in a matter of days—at most a little over a week, even if the Arabs attacked first (which they didn’t). There are disagreements as to why Israel went to war (whether they believed Egypt would attack or whether they wanted to embarrass Nasser and weaken him politically; or to reopen the Straits of Tiran that Egypt closed, or to weaken Russia’s influence in the region, etc.), but there was never, and there still is, no doubt that Israel knew they would quickly and decisively win the war. When then-Prime Minister Eshkol told his generals that Israel had no reason to go to war and they could settle the Straits of Tiran problem diplomatically, the generals did not disagree but said they wanted war anyway.
Not going to war “makes us seem weak,” said Ariel Sharon. Another general said, “It would be a pity to lose the headline ‘Gaza Isin Our Hands.’” Labor MinisterAllon proposed “inventing a pretext” to allow Israel to claim that the Egyptians had started the war. Meir Amit, Chief Director of the Mossad, suggested sending a ship through the Straits so that the Egyptians would attack it.
That said, your readers are correct that “everyone who was around in those days will tell you the war was a nes.” This is true. I was around then, too, and not everyone, but most people were indeed saying Israel’s victory was a nes. The problem is the reason we thought so. Obviously, none of us, nor any rebbeim who told us about the nes, claimed the expertise necessary to assess the military capabilities of Israel and the Arabs. In such a case, obviously, as we do in all cases of determining the metzius, we need to rely on the experts in the field. The problem was, we were told baloney stories about how the experts said Israel’s victory was inexplicable. First, the Israeli government told the public that they are facing an existential threat, even another holocaust. People were so scared that they were sanctifying new cemeteries in preparation for the oncoming slaughter. Israeli diplomat Abba Eban ran to President Johnson to convince him that Israel would be in danger if the Arabs attacked (Johnson rebuffed him, an act perceived as the goyim once again standing by as Jews faced annihilation). But then Israel trounced the Arabs in just six days. We were told that nobody in the world could explain how Israel won the war, nevermind so quickly. Hamodia (6/7/67)reported, “There is no other explanation and there will never be any other explanation for the magnificent victory of the IDF” except“a great miracle.” The kiruv book permission to Believe tells us, “To this day military experts are at a loss to explain the Jews’ 1967 victory.” And we all heard the story of how a West Point general once remarked that the US Military does not study the Six Day War—because what concerns West Point is strategy and tactics, not miracles. We also all heard that the Satmar Rav said the war was indeed a miracle, albeit conceived by the Satan.
But all of the this was baloney. All of it. The story about WestPoint was a made-up fairytale—their academy teaches the Six-day war routinely as they do all other wars, and they explain that Israel won the way wars are usually won—with superior forces and strategy. Not a single military expert has any difficulty explainingIsrael’s victory; they all explain it easily in terms of routine military cause and effect derech hateva, exactly as they predicted it would happen. The real reason Johnson ignored Eban’s claim was, as he told Eban, “All of our intelligence people are unanimous that if Egypt attacks, you will whip ___ out of them.” And the Satmar Rav never said Israel’s victory was a miracle of the Satan. He said it was no miracle at all. Among his reasons: The experts predicted Israel would win. As he told someone who tried to claim the war was a nes: “If the war was a nes, Johnson must be a navi.”
Mattisyahu Peled, Israel’squartermaster general in the war, said publicly that the claim that Israel was fighting for its survival was “a bluff.” “When we spoke of the war in the General Staff,” he said, “we talked of the political ramifications if we didn’t go to war … never of survival today.”Peled’s son, himself a former special forces soldier in the IDF living today in the US, told me his father said, “They all knew the Egyptian army would need at least eighteen months to two years before it was prepared for war.” And that “everyone who was in the know, knew that there was no threat. But they did spread fear to get support for a preemptive strike, which on June 5 they did.” They also wanted to garner world sympathy for the war.
Religious Zionists—including rabbis—then exploited Israel’s portrayal of itself as the weaker side, and concocted the“experts-can’t-explain-it” stories in an effort to show how Hashem favors the Medinah (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik said, even before 1967, that Israel’s miraculous military victories constitute“beckonings” by Hashem tellingKlalYisrael to accept Zionism). The innocent public, having gone through the synthetically induced terror produced by Israel and subsequently flooded with stories of military experts unable to explain how Israel won, naturally assumed there was a nes. Had these false stories not been promulgated, nobody would have thought the war was a nes. (Note: The fact that Israel’s victory in the war was entirely derech hateva does not negate the possibility of individuals having been saved miraculously. There is a story of a bomb not exploding in Mir Yeshiva, for example. The discussion here is about Israel winning or losing the war. That certainly was not a miracle. But in every war, there are casualties on the winning side. And itis quite possible that individuals were saved from being casualties, either naturally or unnaturally.)
There are many lessons to be learned from this, one being whatRavShach says about the Israeli government: We cannot rely on them to have exhausted all options for peace, and to avoid provoking the nations before they decide to go to war. And we cannot rely on them to be honest regarding when they are in a situation of “habahl’horgechah.”
Today, many people cling to the miracle story even though its basis has long been debunked. This is problematic for many reasons. Aside from the mefarshim who explain that “whoever says Hallel every day is mecharef umegadef” because by treating even the “nissim that Hashem does for us every day” as exceptional you trivialize the chessed of the exceptional nissim that Hashem does for us; and aside from the fact that this hoax is used to attract people to bad hashkafos; aside from all that—Torah is emes. We don’t need to invent fake miracle stories to inspire us or to attract people to Torah. Other religions make up stories because they have nothing better to offer. We do. If someone needs to invent fake miracles to attract people to Torah, he could use some kiruv himself.