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The Six Day War: An Israeli soldier recalls the emotion of freeing the Kotel


A guest post by Hillel

Former Member of Knesset, Chanan Porat, was one of the paratroopers who freed the Kotel in 1967.  He was interviewed on one of the Israeli radio stations and was asked to recall his experiences 43 years ago. He told the following story: (Paraphrased)

 “To us the young men who were fighting, and I think to most everyone at the time, the war began with the shadow of the Holocaust etched in our minds.  There was this sense in the air, this resolve, that that there would not be another Holocaust. If twenty years before we were taken like sheep to the slaughter- it would not happen again.

As the war progressed, however, something very special occurred, and in response, our perspective began to change. At some point this change in perspective took place and, suddenly, we were not fighting a war of survival – but a war of redemption. It was a feeling which I cannot really describe in words, a sense of being part of history in the making, no, even more than that, a sense that we were in the middle of writing a new chapter in the Bible…

As we reached the Kotel, the paratrooper next to me was a young man who had grown up in an ultra -secular kibbutz. He too leaned against the kotel and was sobbing. With a voice choked with tears, he turned to me and cried, “Chanan! What should I say!” I cried back, “Say a prayer!” “But I do not know how to pray!” he cried. “So say the Shma”, I called. ”But I do not know how!” he screamed. “So say it with me,” I said. Fighting back tears, I began,”Shma”, and he, at the top of his lungs repeated, “Shma!” “Yisrael.” and he cried out “Yisrael!”  “Hashem.” “Hashem!” “Elokainu.” “Elokainu!” “Hashem.” “Hashem!” “Echad.” “Echad!”

I (Hillel) did not hear what transpired afterwards  because at this point I began to cry, but if there are moments in history which we must save in a bottle and carry with us, I think this is one of them.

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  1. The soldier holding his helmet in the photo is Dr. Ifaat (OBGYN) aka the “weeping Paratrooper”. I met him 21 years ago, while he was fastidiously stitching my wife’s episiotomy in Meir Hospital’s delivery room. While performing this task, he mentioned calmly that at the moment the photo was taken, counter to the “weeping Paratrooper” description, he wasn’t weeping. He like many others were still unable to internalize the many friends that they had lost that day, and were not able to shed a tear for years afterwards.