Premonition of Hope: Hadassah Members Recall 1967
We put out the call for memories of the dramatic events of June 1967 and, within days, many of you responded with heartfelt recollections of being students in Jerusalem, or tending to children as young mothers, or reacting to the war as teenagers passionate about the State of Israel. Please read and share this wonderful collection of memories from Hadassah members.
Fifty years ago, I was a one-year overseas student at Hebrew University. During the run-up to the war, the campus emptied, as Israelis were called up to their army units. We from abroad volunteered where we could—filling sandbags, delivering mail. I was picking apples on a kibbutz when the war began, and could only return to Jerusalem at the end of the fighting.
My most treasured memory was of the walk to the Kotel on Shavuot, when the Old City was first opened to Jewish civilians. Every type of Jew—Hasidim in golden bekeshes (robes), women soldiers in pants—climbed up the hills together, so thrilled to walk where they had previously only dreamed of going. Hayinu kecholmim (we were as dreamers), as the psalm says. In the midst of this wonderfully mixed multitude I found my Israeli roommate, whom I hadn’t seen since weeks before the war. At the Kotel there was no mehitza, only a newly created plaza, but no one seemed to mind, and all rejoiced.
A few days later, my roommate and I went to the then-deserted Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, where she was born. The rooms were empty, the medical equipment gathering dust. We searched for records of her birth, but couldn’t find any. Despite the eerie setting, we felt a premonition of hope, that a rebirth was about to occur.
—Roselyn Bell, Highland Park, N.J.
Israel was at war. My husband, Lionel, and I sat in our blacked-out student apartment at the Weizmann Institute of Science, tears flowing as the radio played the sound of the shofar being blown at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. A knock on our door, and we gathered with friends for an impromptu party. The reunification of Jerusalem was a miracle to be celebrated with a Shehecheyanu, and singing “Jerusalem of Gold.”
Three weeks later, on a trip to Jerusalem organized by the Weizmann institute for the “foreign scientists” who had stayed during the war, we drove up a narrow road recently cleared of landmines, and viewed with dismay the bombed-out shell of the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus.
Accessing the Temple Mount, we walked to a narrow street with a high wall on one side—the Western Wall. With a profound sense of history, we left our folded prayers in the cracks.
Fifty years later, we renew our commitment to Jerusalem, Hadassah and tikkun olam.
—Patricia Levinson, St. Petersburg, Fla.
In June of 1967, I was 17 years old and about to graduate from high school in Chicago. I was actively involved in USY, the youth group connected to the Conservative movement, and very much in love with Israel. The previous summer, I had spent seven weeks in Israel on USY’s Israel Pilgrimage. It was a life-changing experience. I loved the land, people, culture and language.
One of the most memorable events of that summer was working with the Israel Defense Forces, clearing out old trenches that had been used by the military during the War of 1948. Over the intervening years, the trenches had become overgrown with weeds We were asked to do this back-breaking work “just in case” they were ever needed again, in the event of a war. Little did we know, in less than one year’s time, they would, indeed, be put to use.
Although the Six-Day War was a frightening time for those who remember that era, I was glad to know that in some small way, I had done my part to help Israel and the cause.
—Janet Tatz, Helena, Mont.
In 1967, I was a 20 year-old student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I was living in a rented room in the Rehavia neighborhood. As war loomed, my Bulgarian landlady who had lived through the siege of Jerusalem in 1948 began toasting bread, in case we would be cut off from supplies. Classes emptied due to students and teachers being called into reserves, college came to a halt, and I volunteered to type telegrams at the Central Post Office in Jerusalem about a block from the Jordanian border. Shells fell around us shaking the building, and gaping holes appeared on walls in my neighborhood.
Luckily, the war ended in six days and we were victorious. I had no idea what the consequences of losing might be, and no intention of listening to my parents, who had wanted me to return to the States before the war started. Sadly, I learned that one of my professors, Aryeh Tweig, the gentlest of souls, was killed early in the fighting.
Entering the Old City of Jerusalem, visiting Mount Scopus, and seeing the beauty of the West Bank and the Golan Heights—all this was very moving, although we had to stay on designated paths due to uncleared minefields in many areas. It will be an experience I will always remember!
—Livia Sklar, Alpharetta, Ga.
I was 18, had completed my first university semester and had just returned to Chicago. I am a first-generation American whose father had escaped Germany and whose grandmother died in the Holocaust. I did not and do not take Israel for granted. I was frightened that Israel could disappear in defeat. June 10 brought euphoria. My new friends from Hillel and I spent the entire summer at the Jewish federation in Chicago acknowledging the donations pouring in, first as volunteers and later as summer employees.
Although my family sent packages to our Israeli relatives, my parents had never visited Israel during my lifetime. The victory of 1967 motivated me to participate in a six-week program in Israel as soon as I graduated from college. I spent free weekends with cousins and with my aunt and uncle. I came home inspired, sharing stories and photos. I became a Zionist for life.
When my husband asked me to marry him, I agreed on the condition he promise to travel with me to Israel. My passion for Israel led me to join Hadassah during my first year of marriage.
—Margo Gray, Tucson, Ariz.
I was 10 years old. We had just celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary the prior weekend. My great aunt and uncle were still visiting. I was at home, just waking up and getting ready for school. My mom was screaming, “Israel is at war.” The next day, watching the evening news reports showing the reunification of Jerusalem, brought tears of joy to my eyes. Even though I was young, it is forever a part of me. Even today, when I see photographs and films of the soldiers entering the Old City and praying at the Kotel, that feeling returns—chills throughout my body, tears in my eyes and pure joy.
—Marcia Gabrilove Ladin, Rochester, N.Y.
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, in an Orthodox community. On Sunday, June 11, 1967, 13 bat mitzvah girls, all in our varied white dresses, had prepared for a long time for our milestone day of standing on the bimah and reciting together what that Saturday’s parsha taught us.
However, a cease-fire had been declared on June 10. Many Israelis and foreign volunteers had died in the Six-Day War. We were asked to cancel our celebration party after our the ceremony. For a 12-year-old child, that was sad, but it became a lesson well-learned to be aware of what was happening in Israel.
My last living grandmother, along with one living grandfather, were able to celebrate with me but, sadly, one week later my grandmother passed away. I was so delighted that she had made my special day.
Fifty years is a long time, but the memory of my bat mitzvah remains vivid. My little Shabbat booklet is still used today in the United States along with my grand children on Friday night. L’Dor v Dor.
—Ghita (Cohen) Sarembock, Cincinnati, Ohio
Our first-born son, Edward, had been born on May 7, so his pidyon haben took place smack in the middle of the Six-Day War. We had invited many relatives to our home for the occasion. However, all anyone wanted to do was stay glued to the TV! I, 24 years old and rather self-involved at the moment, was annoyed that no one was paying attention to poor Edward. They rushed through the ceremony and went back to watching. Fortunately, Ed, now 50, turned out none the worse for it.
—Jacqueline Guttman, Englewood, N.J.
I was a young mother in Glasgow, Scotland, when we heard the news that Israel was being attacked on all sides by Egypt, Syria and Jordan. As members of the local WIZO Chapter, my friends and I informed as many of our members as we could to gather at Links House, the home of the Glasgow Zionist Organization, and split into groups to discuss what we were going to do.
We decided on a project to go house-to-house collecting extra funds for our beloved, beleaguered State of Israel. Even those of us—including myself—with babies in prams were recruited. Meetings were held and things looked really bleak at first, because all the information was coming from the Arab states; Israel was being very quiet. However, when the dust settled and we suddenly found that “our boys” had conquered the entire area of Judea and Samaria as well as East Jerusalem, which had been held by the British-led Jordanian Army for 19 years, we were elated. As usual, the Glasgow Jewish community had been very generous, with only a few holdouts. It was an exciting time, and I’m so glad that I, in my small way, was a part of it.
—Elaine G. Grae, Leesburg, Fla.
The Six-Day War concluded one week before my bat mitzvah. I vividly remember following the story in the newspapers, on television and in Hebrew school. It was very exciting to hear that Jerusalem was reunifed and that the IDF had triumphed over Israel’s adversaries.
As a teenager, I felt the Jewish people were strong and invincible. In temple, we sang and danced to celebrate the victory. My bat mitzvah took on another meaning for me, one of a very strong connection to Israel. Four years later, I made my first trip to Israel and stood before the Kotel and wept tears of joy.
—Amy Solomon, Metro Area Resource Chair, Noar of Newburgh Chapter in New York
I was a student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem Class of 1966-67.
Jerusalem was reunited on the third day of the war. On that day, while taking a walk on campus, a soldier in an army jeep stopped me and asked if I wanted to see the Western Wall. I must have flown into that jeep. We approached the Mandelbaum Gate and were told to turn around, as there were snipers shooting and civilians were in the Jeep. But the desire to see the Western Wall was overwhelming. We went in anyway and, as we came out thru Mandelbaum Gat,e the Hasidim were shouting Kol HaKavod!
Soon after, I went to Hadassah Hospital at Ein Kerem, which was completely full. Women were nursing infants, people of all ages were in all manner of dress according to their culture. I also saw the newly reunited Hadassah Mount Scopus. Hadassah was there for the people of Israel!
—Linda Goldstein, Miami, Fla.
I was at home caring for my almost one-year-old son and listening to the radio with a live feed from Israel. The sounds of gunfire tore right through my heart. Those were my people being shot at and dying once again. As I sat at my ironing board, tears began to stream uncontrollably. How could this be happening after all we had already been through?
The next day there was a rally at the Kew Gardens Jewish Center in Queens, New York. The place was packed with Jews and non-Jews alike. After the speeches, there was an appeal to buy Israel Bonds. Our local ice cream truck vendor, Jerry of Italian extraction, stood up and pledged to buy several thousand dollars in Israel Bonds. I was more impressed with that than any of the speeches. Here was a man making pennies on each transaction who found it in his heart to make our cause his cause. I bless him to this day.
—Myra Friedman, Smithtown, N.Y.
In May 1967 I was 15 and living on Long Island, in New York. My memories of the Six-Day War begin with the Salute to Israel Parade in Manhattan, marching with my youth group friends. War was imminent and there was electricity in the air.
At school, the Jewish students were united as never before and talked about each day’s events. When war began and Israel pushed the attackers back, there was a tremendous sense of pride. We felt that we were strong and we would never be defeated again!
This seems so strange today, but we waited for the newest film footage to be flown in from Israel on our constantly blaring television. I vividly remember seeing that iconic photo of the three soldiers at the Kotel for the first time. It still makes me cry. And despite the loss of life, Jews were stronger and more united.
—Terre Gore Foreman, Phoenix, Ariz.
Where was I during the Six-Day War? I was living in Israel at the time. My husband, who was originally from Argentina, was called to the reserves. I was a new mother, and my 8-month-old and I would rush back and forth to the bomb shelter every time the alarm sounded, along with other neighbors from our apartment house in Bat Yam. We were able to listen to the news in the shelter while the neighbors passed Nili, my daughter, around. Then one day, suddenly, we heard on the radio that we had won. We emerged from the shelter and listened to Naomi Shemer’s beautiful song, “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold). My husband remained in the reserves for a a few more weeks. When he returned in his uniform for a long weekend, my son, Danny, was conceived—one of many babies conceived around that time.
—Thelma Scheinberg, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Golda Meir came to speak at Madison Square Garden saying that Israel needed volunteers after the Six-Day War. A week after hearing her electrifying rhetoric, I was on a religious, formerly border kibbutz, Sa’ad in the Negev. I acquired my passport in a day and through the Jewish Agency connected with a summer kibbutz program. We took the place of all the dropouts because of the war.
I was sent on wings by my family as everyone was so ecstatic about our success. Especially, my grandmother sent me with her blessing as I would be her emissary to her brother, Uncle Lazar, whom she had not seen since 1922. Miraculously, Uncle Lazar had survived the Shoah and was living in Netanya, where I would spend my vacations. He had my grandma’s eyes and love of birds.
What did a girl from New Jersey know about farming? Picking plums in the orchard was so beautiful, but we were separated from the kibbutzniks. So I went inside to peel 300 potatoes, wash 400 dishes and burn tons of shirts with the steamless iron, but I was taken in by my kibbutz family, the Krals. I ate at their Shabbat table and experienced part of their socialist life. My roommate met and married a kibbutznik and was pulled around in a tractor with her new husband.
In one day in Jerusalem, we saw Yad Vashem and the raw Kotel strewn with rubble; our emotions had gone from the depths of sadness to pure joy.
One day my college professor came to our kibbutz; he didn’t recognize me with my pig tails and covah shemesh, sun hat. Everywhere in the tacanah hamercazit, the central bus station, I saw other volunteers from my college, Stern College, Yeshiva University! It was very inspiring.
On our last day, a mine exploded without injuries on the kibbutz.The incident made The New York Times, but luckily I was home when my parents found out.
All these years, in my mind I have lived a parallel life on my kibbutz, especially all the years that my husband could not walk.I thought of our collective way of life. Needless to say this was a pivotal experience for me. I am the same age as Israel!
—Marlene Markoff, Fairlawn, N.J.