The June 1967 article I published in Hebrew from Israel

Prologue. In June of 1967, I arrived in Israel with the intention of fighting in the Six Day War. I had been raised on tales of the 1948 War of Independence when such presumed heroics really did result in volunteers being given a Sten gun immediately after leaving the ship as it docked in Jaffa harbor. I had arrived at Tel Aviv airport with these expectations. My jet from Athens was the first commercial airline to land in the country’s airport. My timing was perfect. I kissed the ground on day four when hostilities were still taking place at the Syrian border.
Golan Heights, Israel/Syrian border, June, 1967

However, as Talleyrand said to Napoleon, “You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.”


Instead, I was handed a large shovel on a dairy farm in the South. While shoveling manure, an astonishingly beautiful and elegant member of the community asked me to write an article for the local newspaper. I wrote the article in English and I helped her translate it. By then, I had acquired a new word to add to my vocabulary. Electricity.

The grandfather who had taken over the farm while his son-in law was in a tank in the Sinai desert said “Don’t touch that fence.” Being a college boy, I asked “Why?” Touching the fence, I found out. Subsequently, I became an agriculture expert.

N.B. The next requirement for Israel as always is peace. As Talleyrand said to Napoleon, “You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.”
Published in the Kfar Warburg community newspaper, June 1967
Translation by Mike Germise with assistance from Ortal Zannani who answered a call from the blue, i.e. State College, PA, responded to my request that she scan an article I had published 50 years previously and helped Mike read the words which had escaped clarity after being scanned. 


Following is a note written by Joel Solkoff, one of the volunteers from abroad who came to help us: The country reminded me of a beautiful woman sunbathing outside who is aware of all those watching her. The country dressed up and at times seemed as if it wanted to kiss me.

The plane landed in Tel Aviv and the “angry young man” who decided to go to war reached his destination. On Monday he was in New York, on Tuesday in Paris, on Wednesday in Athens and on Thursday in Tel Aviv. He reached his destination but there was no war, and other than taped window panes and small tents on the side of the road leading from the airport, Tel Aviv looked like Paris.

But if I couldn’t fight I could at least work. Now I am in Kfar Warburg and for the first time in my life I shoveled manure from the cow shed. I can see the Hills of Judea from this shed. The work is clean because the cows are worth working for.

Life is good here, the land is good and the air is very good and years of hard labor created a land that is worth fighting for. But while the nation deserves praise, it doesn’t need it. Because the workers know what work they did. The soldiers know that they won tremendous victories.

It seems that the land is nothing, therefore we shouldn’t pile on the praise because excessive praise leads to conceit, and a nation that rests on its victories and refuses to face its failures may suffer a defeat.

I saw the tears and the anxiety each news broadcast brought. I understand this may seem strange, my view of Israel and Kfar Warburg seems stereotyped, but this settlement was established by people from the Diaspora. The people who came to Israel and built it up know what they left behind and why they came. I am also from the Diaspora, and I think I can understand these people better than the sabras [native born Israelis] can.

When I knew I was finally coming to Israel I cried for hours – I who had not cried for years. The “uncles” [the name for volunteers from abroad] are experiencing a certain disappointment we missed the war. Such disappointment belongs to the young. These were the feelings of people who wanted to fight, who came to Israel to help.

Last night, when a soldier asked me how much I had managed to see of Israel, I answered as far at the Hills of Judea, and that was only from the cow shed. His answer was that salvation would not come from the Hills of Judea. Therefore, as long as shoveling manure is considered clean work, the country is worth devoting your soul to it.


From: Joel Solkoff
Date: Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 6:27 AM

Subject: 1967 Kfar Warburg volunteer connects
To: Ortal


It was a pleasure talking to you this morning/afternoon.

This might help:

Also, this unpublished remembrance which I wrote last week. I mention here the article I published in June 1967 in Hebrew in the local publication at Kvar Warburg. The headline in the article had the word “uncle/dod” which was the term used for volunteers.


From where I sit, 10:50 Saturday morning, June 24, 2017.

In four months, I will be 70 years old.

For some things, my memory is excellent. Not for names, dates, street names or…

I remember events with great clarity. Fifty years ago, I was working on a dairy farm in southern Israel. I had arrived at the Tel Aviv airport on day four of the Six Day War. The jet that flew me from Athens to Israel was the first commercial plane to arrive in the country since the war began. The airport Lod (since renamed Ben Gurion) had been taken over by the military.

Pup tents were set up all along the runways. Soldiers carrying machine guns were everywhere. After receiving a stamp on my passport, I awaited a bus with a beautiful blonde nurse and her friend from Scandinavia who also had dropped everything when they read the news that Israel was under attack. Now we were boarding a bus to downtown, nowhere to go, no idea of what would happen next.

The driver asked for bus fare. I gave him all the money I had in my pocket.

A small number of cars were on the streets in the most populous city. There was something strange about their headlights. The three of us found ourselves in a government office being served breakfast by grateful Israelis who could not stop telling us how pleased they were that we had arrived. Over yoghurt, fruit, humus, pita, Turkish coffee, eggs, fish…[the food kept coming], they told sad stories of Jews leaving Israel in a panic fearful of being trapped.

Our hosts had arranged for our transportation to Herzliya, a resort slightly north of the city, where the Jewish Agency had set up headquarters for the volunteers who would soon be swarming in—volunteers like the ones I had left behind in Paris awaiting Jewish Agency assistance before arrival. The three of us sat staring at the beautiful Mediterranean while officials—who had taken over the then empty resort—assigned us.

I was assigned to Kvar Warburg, a moshav, a dairy farm near Ashkelon in the South. By nightfall, I was asleep on a lumpy coach in the living room of an extended family. The grandfather and grandmother were the only observant Jews in the community. Their son-in-law, the head of the family, was still in the Sinai Dessert having fought in a battle that revolutionized tank warfare for over a generation. His wife had introduced me to their minor children as an “uncle”—uncles and aunts being the ubiquitous term for the volunteers who would soon be entering the country.

Friday (the following morning), I was in the cow shed shoveling large quantities of manure as I stared at the Judean Hills. Far to the North, members of the Israeli Defense Forces were dying as they stormed upward Syria’s Golan Heights where our enemies had lobbed bombs on the Israeli farms below.

The five other volunteers who had been assigned to Kvar Warburg were British mercenaries having served on what I regarded as the wrong side in conflicts in Africa and elsewhere eager to fight regardless of the cause. Within a week, an elegant astonishingly beautiful editor of the community newsletter had coaxed me into writing an article for her publication.

Later in the month, Shmuel (I think that was his name) returned from his tank. An enterprising farmer convinced the moshav to assign my labor to him. The farmer arrived and with dispatch scooped me up and relocated me to his home, wife, and two daughters. The farmer was the most enterprising fellow in town. At his cow shed, he had contrived a parlor. Instead of the horizontal shed, where it was necessary to bend down to affix the milking machines to the utters, the head of my new family had contrived an improvement. Thirsty and hungry the cows approached his shed. Only, they went up an incline in his parlor so the cows were above the farmer’s head and he did not have to bend down to milk them. Perhaps, this was my nascent agriculture expertise.

Later in June, 1967 it seemed as if the whole country was Jerusalem-bound. For the first time since 1948, Jews could go to our holiest spot—the Western Wall of the Temple. The Jordanians had put land mines around the Wall. To avoid the danger, the military had constructed a new road to make it safe for the throngs to reach the Wall.

As we joyfully walked the new route from the spot where by tradition King David had written the Psalms to the Wall, the farmer asked me to take a photograph of him with his family. I positioned the camera, stepped back to get all four in the picture. I found myself standing in the middle of a mine field passersby agape and pointing.


Thank you so much for your help.

Best wishes,

Joel Solkoff

יואל סולק