Israel 50 Years Ago Today Part 3 & 4

Israel 50 Years Ago Today Part 3 & 4

Click here for part 1 & 2


In the third video of our 12-part series, learn how Israel responded to Egypt’s threatening moves, and how Egypt escalated the situation even further.

Israelis were gripped by tension in the days following Egypt’s military deployment of 80,000 troops to its border, and the expulsion of the UN observer force from the Egyptian-Israeli border.

Hoping to avoid a deadly war, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol stated that Israel would not respond with force, as long as Egypt did not block Israel from exercising its right of travel in the Straits of Tiran – blocking naval passage is an internationally recognized act of war.



3/12 | In the third video of this mini-series, Israel pursues a diplomatic solution to the tensions with Egypt, but Egypt imposes a naval blockade on Israel. And that’s an act of war. The world waits to see what will happen next.

See all the videos as they are released:

By late May, Egyptian President Nasser’s deployment of tens of thousands of troops in the buffer zone along Israel’s border was an unambiguous threat to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol responded cautiously that Israel would not initiate hostilities as long as Egypt refrained from closing the international waterway leading to Israel’s southern port – the Straits of Tiran. Such an act would cut off Israel’s supply of oil and other vital resources, by blocking Israeli access to the Gulf of Aqaba and Asia.

On May 23rd, President Nasser gave his answer by blockading the straits. This action violated UN Security Council Resolution 118, was condemned by US President Lyndon Johnson, and constituted an act of war in international law.

Nonetheless, Israel did not take immediate military action, continuing to attempt a resolution through diplomatic channels.

But Israel’s enemies would not be moved by diplomacy alone. As five other Arab countries deployed their troops toward Israel, Nasser told the public: “We knew that closing the Gulf of Aqaba meant war with Israel… If war comes it will be total and the objective will be Israel’s destruction…”

Tensions were mounting. It seemed that Israel was headed for a war for its very existence.


In the fourth video of our 12-part mini-series, experience the sentiments Israelis felt and the actions they took to prepare for an inevitable war.



4/12 | In the fourth video of this mini-series, experience the fear Israelis felt as they prepared for an inevitable war. With Israel’s army vastly outnumbered, Israelis suspended civilian life, converting schools to bomb shelters and public parks to mass graveyards.

See all the videos as they are released:

In the week before the start of the war, the Arab streets echoed with calls to destroy the Jewish state.

Jordan signed a military pact with Egypt and Syria. Meanwhile, Israel hoped the United States would forcibly break the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran, but the US refrained from intervening, fearing a confrontation with the Egypt-sponsoring USSR.

Israel’s army was gravely outnumbered. Poised for assault were 80,000 Egyptian troops, 60,000 Jordanian troops, and 50,000 Syrian troops, and a total of more than 850 tanks and 600 combat aircrafts.

The mood throughout Israel was tense and anxious. Schools and public transportation were suspended. Teenagers worked filling sandbags. School buildings were converted to bomb shelters. Medicine and over 14,000 hospital beds were prepared.

In addition, parks throughout the country were dug up – to ready over 10,000 graves. Israelis feared a second Holocaust.

Meanwhile, Jews and non-Jews held mass demonstrations and fundraisers in New York and London. Jewish volunteers from around the world arrived to enlist in Israel’s defense.

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol addressed the nation in a televised speech now famous for its hesitancy, and later entrusted the Ministry of Defense to Israeli war hero General Moshe Dayan.

By now, it was clear that diplomacy had failed. On the night of June 4th, Israel’s cabinet confirmed that Arab armies threatened the very existence of the State. The government authorized Prime Minister Eshkol and Defense Minister Dayan to deploy the Israeli Defense Forces for preemptive military action.

That action that would remain top secret until the morning.


Click here for Part 1 & 2



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