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
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.
The Actions Committee approves a new Constitution for the WZO and grants
independent status to Zionist territorial organizations.
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.
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.
Israel announces the employment of an atomic reactor in Nahal Sorek for
the purpose of research.
Following approval of a 27.5 million dollar loan from the First
International Bank of Israel, the first steps towards building Ashdod port
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.
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.
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.
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.
Israel launches Shavit II, an experimental meteorological satellite.
Work on the large new Ashdod port (in the south) begins.
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
The government of Israel announces a new economic policy, based on a 66%
devaluation. This causes social unrest, protests and demonstrations.
The Supreme Court of Justice rejects Adolph Eichmann's appeal and
President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi denies him a pardon.
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
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.
A new university is founded in Haifa. In the beginning it is under the
academic supervision of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
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.
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
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.
Pope Paul Vl pays a one-day visit to Israel.
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
The Arab states continue to put pressure on Eastern European countries to
halt aliyah to Israel.
Israel signs the first cooperation agreement between the European
Community and Israel in Brussels.
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.
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.
The city of Karmiel is inaugurated in the Galilee.
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 -
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
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.
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.
The Israel Museum (Israel's national museum) opens in Jerusalem.
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
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
Israel and Germany establish diplomatic ties.
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
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.
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.
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,
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,"
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.
The blockade of Israel intensifies: Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq threaten
to attack Israel,
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
The first kibbutz is established in the Golan Heights - Merom Golan.
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
The first settlement is established in the Jordan Rift - Mehola.
Jewish settlement is renewed in Hebron.
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.
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.
World Jewry is concerned for the small Jewish minority in Iraq after
Baghdad authorities execute nine Jews charged with espionage on behalf of
Egypt starts a War of Attrition against Israel in Sinai. It continues for
a year and a half, until August 1970.
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.
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.