On June 5, 1967, I flew to Israel to fight in the “Six Day War”

On Monday, June 5th 1967 I awoke early. I had completed my sophomore year at Colubmbia College. There I had read lovingly Agnon’s beautiful stories far too sophisticated for my vocabulary in Hebrew.

I was living in my apartment at 108th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam, then not a safe neighborhood. There I lived with Vicki Cohen whom I met during freshman week and whom I later married.

My early morning walk took me to a newsstand/soda fountain on Broadway where The New York Times was being cut out of the bundle. While drinking a vanilla malted, I read the details of the headline stating that war had begun in Israel.

One Times dispatch from Egypt was wildly inaccurate describing what turned out to be early fiction about Egypt’s early progress in the War.

I decided to go to Israel immediately. First I required a passport. After finishing my malted I then:

1. Returned home to collect my birth certificate
2. Called the Passport office
3. Dressed and went Downtime so I could be there for the office’s opening
4. Purchased a one-way ticket from AirFrance scheduled to leave from Kennedy to Orly
5. Told the passport official that a very dear uncle had died in Paris, that Jewish law required expedient burial and that I had already purchased a ticket to Paris that night, and I could not board the flight without an expedited passport.
6. Monday night June 5th, I kissed Celia, my beloved maternal grand mother, and Vicki goodbye. I could not have avoided noticing that they cried when I boarded the plane.
7. At Paris the Jewish agency was so overloaded that I could not rely on its timely assistance,
8. Tuesday night, June 6th, I purchased a one way ticket to Cyprus.
9. Wednesday June 7th I was at the airport at Athens.
10. Early Thursday morning I boarded a flight from Athens to then Lodd Airport in Tel Aviv.
11. Early Thursday morning, my plane was the first commercial plane to land at Israel’s main airport.
12. I kissed the ground.
13. When the immigration official began to stamp a visa on my passport, he asked, “Why are you visiting Israel.” I said “to help any way I can.”
14. Two days later, when the War ended with the victory at the dangerous and critical Golan Hights, I was shoveling manure on a dairy farm in the South of Israel learning the Hebrew word for “”electricity” when my farmer host tried to tell me I was about to touch an electrical wire designed to keep the cows in their place.

To be continued.

–Joel Solkoff

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