June 13, 2012, 5:51 AM
Israel's military victories were never the results of an inspired military or political leadership. While the anniversary of the Six-Day War has led to an outpouring of adoration for the usual suspects; the khaki-garbed generals striding victoriously through a carefully cropped photo, even if one of them had come down with a nervous breakdown not long before, Israeli generals have never been geniuses, the best-known ones have carried their own press releases into battle, and have walked a fine line between daring and criminal incompetence. Their victories were won for them by the men in the field, who survived to carry out their operations.
andIf Israeli generals are overrated, then Israeli governments are far worse, and, considering the number of generals who have played a role in politics, the confluence of the two conditions is not surprising. Israeli governments have, for the most part, been timid, cowardly and incompetent. (Which is to say that they were, for the most part, a lot like the governments of the rest of the West.)
All this makes the Six-Day War that much more impressive and awe-inspiring. An act of G-d done through the hands of fighting men in a country facing annihilation. And it is also a reminder that Israel's survival does not depend on its governments. If past governments had been able to fully enact their peace agendas, there likely would be no Israel. Can such governments celebrate the Six-Day War? Do they have any right to take credit for what they have given away and what they intend to give away?
Much as the Jewish People have been preserved by G-d and Anti-Semitism, Israel has been preserved by G-d and the irrational hatred of its Muslim neighbors. And between these poles is where the ordinary heroism of its people emerges. This is not the heroism of brazen trumpets and endless victory parades-- but the heroism of survival.
Men glorify war in order to deny the mortality of the killing fields. But day-to-day survival is a much less glorious thing. It is not inspiring in the same overtly transcendent way. It is merely life. It is the routine of surviving from one battle to the next, one generation to the next, moving slowly toward the future, reciting Kaddish for the dead, and then going into the earth, while your children go on.