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A Decade of change

Between 1960 and 1969, Israel and the Zionist movement went through many changes. Israel, which had celebrated twelve years of statehood by the beginning of the decade, was already an established fact in the Middle East. But the Arab leaders were unwilling to admit it and some were planning to embark on a "third round" against Israel, following their defeat in the War of Independence and in the Sinai Campaign. The plotting against Israel reached its peak during the middle of the decade when the Arab countries decided to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River to deprive Israel of its main water resources and prevent it from operating the National Water Carrier. Simultaneously, the Arab countries encouraged the establishment of an organization for liberating Palestine and its terror arm, Fatah, which prompted a series of terror attacks in Israel. Throughout 1966 and the beginning of 1967, the situation along the borders deteriorated, resulting in the outbreak of the Six-Day War in June 1967. This war, one of the most glorious milestones in Israel's history, changed the map of the Middle East and made a strong impact on Jewish people around the world who united behind the State of Israel in the face of diversity. During these difficult but great hours, the good old principles of Kol Israel haverim ("All Israel are friends") and Kol Israel areivim ze l'ze ("All Jews are responsible for one another") took their place once more. The Zionist movement worldwide played a significant role in this.

The victory in the Six-Day War and the return to parts of Eretz Israel that had been beyond the border, revitalized aliyah. Thousands began streaming into Israel from two main sources: from the affluent countries of the West and from the USSR. In spite of dozens of years of oppression, Soviet Jewry discovered that embers can still light a real Zionist fire. Although the Soviet regime had done all it could to repress a Zionist awakening, it failed and during the 1970s the Zionist element in Soviet Jewry strengthened and thousands of Jews managed to immigrate to Israel,

The 1960s in Israel were divided economically and socially into three periods: firstly, investment in the Israeli market increased and thousands of olim immigrated to Israel each year. After that came a period of recession - a deliberate halt in the market's growth, initiated by the government. But the recession succeeded too well and caused unemployment and disillusionment. This resulted in decreased aliyah. The Six-Day War brought the recession to an end. A short time after the war, a new era of prosperity began which was marked, amongst other things, by continued aliyah. This, however, was a totally different kind of aliyah: for the first time thousands of olim from Western countries arrived in Israel, mostly from the United States. They came in the wake of the Six-Day War, which had triggered feelings of exhilaration throughout the Jewish world. But they also came because of the reduced standard of living in some Western countries in the second part of the 1960s. They were joined by the first olim of a new, large and surprising wave of aliyah at that time - from the USSR.

In the area of absorption things were also changing. The lessons of the 1950s had been learned, and transit camps and temporary camps were no longer being established. The emphasis was on settling olim in permanent accommodation. The Aliyah and Absorption Departments of the Jewish Agency were combined and towards the end of the decade, the responsibility for absorbing aliyah was transferred to the government.

In comparison to the great settlement drive of the 1950s, the years up until 1967 were slow ones. The number of new settlements was relatively small - almost no new development towns were established, except for Arad and Karmiel, and the emphasis was on strengthening existing settlements. That also changed due to the Six-Day War and a renewed momentum resulted in the building of new settlements, especially in what was called the administered territories (Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights).

The WZO continued to debate the question "Who is a Zionist?" Does a Zionist in the Diaspora need to make aliyah to Israel in order to fulfill his Zionism? Or could there be Zionism in the Diaspora - in Jewish education and culture, in strengthening Jewish identity and in helping the State of Israel? During these years it was agreed by most Israeli and Zionist leaders, that Zionism in the Diaspora is important and that assisting Israel through donations and in other ways is an important Zionist action, as is the establishment of a Jewish presence in the Diaspora.

During the decade, a number of outstanding leaders who had led the WZO for many years left the public stage: David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of Israel, resigned from his duties in 1963. Before being appointed prime minister, he served as the chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency and Zionist Executive; Moshe Sharett, who was minister of foreign affairs from the establishment of the State until 1956, served as prime minister for two years and as chairman of the board of the Zionist Executive in the early 1960s, died in 1965; Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died in 1969, one of the central architects of the absorption of the great aliyah in the early 1950s; and Abba Hillel Silver died in the US in 1963, one of the greatest Zionist leaders of the "revival generation." He assisted greatly in influencing the decision regarding the establishment of the State of Israel in the UN Assembly in the autumn of 1947.

At the end of the decade, towards the 1970s, Israel appeared strong and secure; its territory larger than even the most optimistic of predictions. Many believed that the War of Attrition, which had begun in 1969, would end in another Egyptian defeat. Ongoing, large-scale aliyah, together with economic prosperity, also contributed to the promising overall picture.


January 4
The Actions Committee approves a new Constitution for the WZO and grants independent status to Zionist territorial organizations.

March 13
A historic meeting in New York between the Prime Ministers of Israel and of West Germany, David Ben-Gurion and Konrad Adenauer. They discuss the possibility of diplomatic relations between the two countries - an emotionally charged issue at the time.

May 23
Israel announces that the Israeli Mossad (the institution for intelligence and special tasks) has located the notorious Nazi Adolph Eichmann - one of the primary planners and perpetrators of the Nazi extermination program - in Argentina and brought him to Israel. This is cause for great excitement in Israel and the rest of the world. Argentina protests the abduction of Eichmann from its territory.

June 16
Israel announces the employment of an atomic reactor in Nahal Sorek for the purpose of research.

June 28
Following approval of a 27.5 million dollar loan from the First International Bank of Israel, the first steps towards building Ashdod port are taken.

July 6
An industrial security milestone: the Israel Aircraft Industries (lAI) provides the IDF with the first training plane assembled in the country - the Fouga Magister.

December 27 - January 11, 1961
The Twenty-fifth Zionist Congress convenes in Jerusalem. Discussions focus on Jewish education in the Diaspora and relations between the WZO and the Israeli government. The Congress announces that since the State of Israel came into being, 440 agricultural settlements were established and 40 settlements expanded; the Jewish National Fund planted 43 million forest trees and prepared 350,000 dunams of land for agriculture; Youth Aliyah absorbed 100,000 children; and 60 ulpanim now exist around the country, teaching new olim how to live in Israel and speak Hebrew.

Aliyah to Israel in 1960 - 24,000 - is still relatively low, with most olim coming from Romania and Morocco. Since 1956, Moroccan Jews have made aliyah to Israel "illegally" in operations organized by the Israel government and the WZO.


January 11
The "Egoz", transporting Jews from Morocco clandestinely, sinks on its way to Gibraltar; 42 passengers drown. The disaster exposes the plight of Moroccan Jews who are prohibited from making aliyah by the Moroccan authorities. Following the disaster, an agreement is reached with the Moroccan monarchy regarding the mass exodus of Jews. By 1964, 80,000 Jews will have left Morocco. Most of them go to Israel.

April 11
Adolph Eichmann's trial begins in Jerusalem and receives unprecedented coverage in the international press. On December 15, Eichmann is sentenced to death by hanging.

May 15
The laying of the National Water Carrier, which will transport water from northern Israel to the arid south and the Negev, is in progress. On this date, the digging of the seven kilometer long Menashe Tunnel - the longest tunnel existing in Israel and constituting part of the National Water Carrier - is completed.

July 5
Israel launches Shavit II, an experimental meteorological satellite.

July 30
Work on the large new Ashdod port (in the south) begins.

November 28
The Israeli government and the Jewish National Fund sign an agreement between them regarding the management of the country's land. The covenant provides for the establishment of two separate bodies: a Government Land Authority, which is to manage all State and JNF lands, and a Land Development Authority, established within the JNF, which is to concentrate on land reclamation and afforestation.

Aliyah to Israel, which had slowed in recent years, picks up. In 1961, 47,000 olim make aliyah - almost double the number from the previous year.


Aliyah from Morocco intensifies following the agreement between Israel and young King Hassan II of Morocco, reaching 7,000 during May 1962 - Operation Yakhin. Many olim also arrive from Romania during the year.

February 9
The government of Israel announces a new economic policy, based on a 66% devaluation. This causes social unrest, protests and demonstrations.

May 29
The Supreme Court of Justice rejects Adolph Eichmann's appeal and President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi denies him a pardon.

May 31
Eichmann is executed by hanging. His body is cremated and his ashes scattered over the Mediterranean Sea.

The situation of Soviet Jews deteriorates and a number of Jews face death sentences for supposed economic offences. The general atmosphere is extremely anti-Semitic.

November 21
A new city - Arad - is established in the Judean desert. Several years have passed since the establishment of the last urban settlement.

The number of new olim is on the rise and in 1962 more than 61,000 arrive in Israel. As a result of the deteriorating situation in Algeria - due to its War of Independence, the ensuing rebellion and the gaining of independence - hundreds of thousands of French men and women leave the country and settle in France. Tens of thousands of Jews are among them. There is bitter disappointment in Israel that so few make aliyah to Israel.


The first steps are taken to establish a new city – Karmiel - in the western Lower Galilee.

May 27
A new university is founded in Haifa. In the beginning it is under the academic supervision of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

June 16
David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of Israel since 1948 (with a hiatus between 1953 and 1955), resigns from the premiership. He is succeeded by Levi Eshkol. As with his predecessor, Eshkol also holds the position of minister of defense.

September 10
The Arab League decides to deny Israel the water it needs to operate its newly constructed National Water Carrier. On December 12, 1963 the Arab chiefs of staff meet and agree on a plan to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River.

Israel marks 80 years to the First Aliyah with gatherings and conferences, in which the last of the first olim are honored. The number of olim this year - 64,000.


The Kol Zion laGola (Voice of Zion to the Diaspora) radio station broadcasts for four-and-a-half hours a day in easy Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, Mugrabit (Moroccan Arabic) and Romanian.

January 5
Pope Paul Vl pays a one-day visit to Israel.

January 13
The first Arab Summit opens in Cairo. Arab leaders approve the decision to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River to prevent water from reaching Israel.

The Arab states continue to put pressure on Eastern European countries to halt aliyah to Israel.

May 6
Israel signs the first cooperation agreement between the European Community and Israel in Brussels.

June 10
The National Water Carrier - which will transport water from northern Israel to the arid Negev in southern Israel - begins operating, in spite of Arab threats to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River. One million cubic meters of water per day are pumped from the Kinneret and carried through open canals, tunnels and giant pipes up to the springs of Rosh haAyin, where they connect to the Yarkon-Negev line.

July 9
The government of Israel decides to bring the remains of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, founder and leader of the Revisionist movement, to Israel. He is laid to rest in a national ceremony at Mount Herzl.

October 29
The city of Karmiel is inaugurated in the Galilee.

November 4
The Tel Aviv University campus is inaugurated in Ramat Aviv after a decade of operating in different buildings throughout the city.

December 30 – 11 January
The Twenty-sixth Zionist Congress is held in Jerusalem. The main issues on the agenda: the dangers of assimilation in the Diaspora and the need to enhance Jewish consciousness.

The number of olim who arrived in Israel during 1964 - 54,000.


This is a bad year security-wise for Israel, especially along the border with Syria. The Syrians, with the help of other Arab countries, begin activities aimed at diverting the headwaters of the Jordan River.

January 3
In its first act of terror, Fatah (the militant arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization), established just a few months previously, attempts to damage Israel's National Water Carrier.

The coming months see further Fatah terror attacks, and the lDF retaliates by twice raiding terror bases in Jordan and Lebanon.

March 6
The Bourguiba Plan. In order to bring peace to the Middle East, the president of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, recognizes Israel's existence (although on the basis of the borders outlined in the 1947 UN resolution). The Arab world is enraged.

May 11
The Israel Museum (Israel's national museum) opens in Jerusalem.

July 7
Moshe Sharett, former prime minister and foreign minister, dies at the age of 70. He also served as head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency from 1933-1948 and chairman of the Zionist Executive from 1961-1965.

Incidents along the border with Syria increase during the summer. The lDF damages equipment used for diverting the headwaters of the Jordan, and the Syrians are forced to move their tractors deep into their territory.

August 19
Israel and Germany establish diplomatic ties.

November 21
The port of Ashdod is inaugurated, replacing the old ports of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. During the year, the "Horse" Operation is carried out - which involves the establishment of four settlements and a community center in central Galilee, near the Lebanese border. The operation is thus named because some of the settlements can only be reached by horse.

Aliyah in 1965 stands at 31,000 - a 60% decrease compared to the previous year.


Yuly Daniel, a Jew, and Andre Sinyavsky, a non-Jew, are tried in the USSR, charged with "distributing anti-Soviet propaganda." The trial draws international attention to the situation of the Jewish minority in Russia.

July 14
Israel Air Force fighter planes attack tractors and bulldozers deep in Syrian territory, which are being used to divert Jordan River headwaters. Following the attack, the Syrians cease their activities.

August 30
The new Knesset building is inaugurated in Jerusalem.

During the summer, activity on behalf of the "Jewry of Silence" - the millions of Jews living in the USSR who are forbidden to express their national sympathies - is stepped up in Israel and in Western countries.

December 10
Two Jewish writers share the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966: Shmuel Yosef (Shai) Agnon from Israel and Nelly Sachs from Sweden.

The economic situation in Israel is bleak following the government's economic recession policy. One consequence is a sharp decline in aliyah - in 1966, less than 16,000 olim make aliyah, the lowest number for 13 years. Most of them are from affluent countries, especially the US, Britain and France.

Acts of terror by Fatah - who infiltrate from Lebanon and Jordan into Israel - continue for most of the year.


January - April
The recession deepens and the government considers new ways to restore economic prosperity. Unemployed citizens strike throughout the country.

The Coordination Office of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency decide to establish a combined Coordinating Commission to deal with aliyah and absorption. The Commission consists of four ministers and four members of the Jewish Agency Executive. Its chairman is the chairman of the Jewish Agency and his deputy is the minister of labor. The Aliyah and Absorption Departments of the Jewish Agency are united,

May 15
Israel celebrates its 19th year of independence, On this same day, Egypt sends thousands of troops to Sinai, thereby breaking the agreement signed after the 1956 Sinai Campaign. The beginning of three tense weeks, which will later be called "the waiting period,"

May 22
Egypt announces the closing of the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli shipping traffic. Tension rises in the Middle East. By the end of the month, Arab countries, headed by Egypt and Syria, have increased their threats against Israel. In Israel there is political activity in order to form a national unity government, which is established on June 1. The government is joined by Moshe Dayan from Rafi (Reshimat Po'ale Israel) and the heads of Gahal (Gush Herot Liberalim), Menahem Begin and Yosef Sapir. Levi Eshkol relinquishes the security portfolio in favor of Moshe Dayan.

June 4
The blockade of Israel intensifies: Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq threaten to attack Israel,

June 6-10
The Six-Day War. A great victory for Israel, Within less than a week the IDF defeats the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria and captures almost 70,000 square kilometers - the entire Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria ("the West Bank") and the Golan Heights. On June 7, the IDF completes the liberation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City.

July 15
The first kibbutz is established in the Golan Heights - Merom Golan.

September 25
Residents of Kfar Etzion, which was destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948, return to the village and rebuild it. This constitutes the first settlement in the renewed Etzion Bloc (Gush Etzion).

The solidarity operation with Israel, which started in May 1967 when Israel was threatened and isolated, comes to an end. More than 7,200 Jewish youth from around the world volunteered to assist Israel and worked in kibbutzim, moshavim, factories and IDF bases. The operation was organized by the Youth and Hechalutz Department of the Jewish Agency.

Nahal establishes two new outposts - Nahal Yam in northern Sinai and Nahal Snir near the Banias. Through the years, dozens of additional new outposts are established in the administered territories.
The year 1967 is characterized by an emphasis on Jewish solidarity. Millions of Jews around the world anxiously follow events in Israel and the Middle East during the spring and summer of 1967. Many of them help during the difficult days and are elated by the great victory and the return of the Jewish holy sites to the Jewish people.

In an emergency Appeal conducted by Keren Hayesod, the unprecedented sum of 300 million dollars is raised.


Three new settlements are established in the Golan Heights within a month - EI-AI, Mevo Hama and Ein Zivan. Additional settlements follow throughout 1968.

February 6
The first settlement is established in the Jordan Rift - Mehola.

April 12
Jewish settlement is renewed in Hebron.

June 9
The government of Israel takes over responsibility for absorbing olim from the Jewish Agency. A special office for absorption is to be included among the government offices. On July 1, 1968, Yigal Alon, Israel's deputy prime minister, is also appointed minister of absorption.

June 9-16
The Twenty-seventh Zionist Congress convenes in Jerusalem. The assembly marks the great victory in the Six-Day War. The revised (second) Jerusalem Program is approved (1968), and "The Duties of the Individual Zionist" are agreed upon. A decision is also made to establish Tnuot Aliyah (Aliyah Movements) in the affluent countries, to be organized by local aliyah activists.

Following the Six-Day War, aliyah to Israel from these countries increases. The Jewish Agency institutes Tour Ve'aleh, which enables Jews to visit Israel, make their observations and only later decide whether or not to make aliyah. Dozens of shlichim (emissaries) from Israel, representatives of the Aliyah Department and the Youth and Hechalutz Department, begin operating around the world.

A small number of olim arrive from the USSR, despite the obstacles created by the Soviet authorities. The olim began coming even before the Six-Day War and continued coming in light of the enthusiasm that gripped the "Jewry of Silence" after the great IDF victory.


January 27
World Jewry is concerned for the small Jewish minority in Iraq after Baghdad authorities execute nine Jews charged with espionage on behalf of Israel.

March 8
Egypt starts a War of Attrition against Israel in Sinai. It continues for a year and a half, until August 1970.

August 26
A new stage in Soviet Jewry's struggle for national unity and contact with Israel: 18 families from Georgia send an unusual letter to Israel's prime minister, the UN and various bodies throughout the world. In it they announce that they have sold all their possessions and expect to make aliyah to Israel.

November 11
A new university opens its gates in Beersheva. It is later named the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Demonstrations and rallies are held for Soviet Jewry in Israel and around the Jewish world. Aliyah to Israel, which increased after the Six-Day War, intensifies still further. Almost 38,000 olim arrive in Israel in 1969; almost double the number from the previous year. Among them are many from affluent Western countries and from the East (particularly the USSR, despite the difficulties).

Among the new settlements established during the year is Dikla, the first settlement in the Yamit district in northeastern Sinai.


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