In honor of the 50th anniversary of the 6 day war a special get together took place at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. One of the people awarded a certificate at the ceremony was Rabbi Eliyahu Zilbershtrom who is an 80 year old Chabad rabbi in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood of Jerusalem. He participated in the battle for Jerusalem and told of the great miracles that happened with him personally.
Rabbi Zibershtrom began by describing when the IDF Paratroopers stormed the old city. “I was in the 68th battalion and for the 6 day war I was attached to the heavy artillery unit. Wednesday morning at 10:00 am the paratroopers penetrated the old city of Jerusalem and at 10:20 they were entering the narrow alleyways where Jordanian Legion snipers were concealed and shot at our soldiers impeding our progress. They couldn’t move; anyone venturing into the alleyway was shot. Our 68th battalion with our heavy mortar launcher was stationed in what is today Gan Sacher between Rechavia and the Knesset. Our regiment commander was in a reconnaissance plane giving us orders where to shoot over the radio, without maps or any other tools to help!”
“Then the trapped paratroopers asked for artillery backup and we got an order from our regiment commander to fire toward the targets. We got on the transmitter and asked how far away the paratroopers were from their target, the enemy we were supposed to hit, and we got the answer; 25 meters.”
“We were extremely hesitant for this was very close to our soldiers and we were firing blind and could easily hit them instead. As we were hesitating we got another command; “fire”!”
Rabbi Zilbershtrom continues: “Our hands trembled and we were crying. We said Shema Yisrael and prayed our mortars would not G-d forbid hit our own men. The silence was excruciating and then suddenly we heard on the radio “You got a bullseye!” We managed a direct hit firing blindly on the Jordanian position enabling our soldiers to proceed through the old city. Isn’t that a miracle?”
But the amazing story continues: “At the time our soldiers were taking the old city we got an urgent message that a column of Iraqi tanks are coming from Bethlehem to reinforce the Jordanians in the old city. Our regiment commander told us to launch a few mortars at them; perhaps we would hit one of the tanks and stop their advance.”
“A great miracle took place”, Rabbi Zilbershtrom says with emotion, “we launched our first mortar and it hit the first tank in the column totally destroying it.All the rest of the tanks did an about face in hasty retreat.”
Rabbi Zilbeshtrom tells over a story that happened to his friend who told it over to him. “Rabbi Abraham Eisen who lived in the Chabad neighborhood in Lod lived in the old city before 1948 when Jordan overtook it. After Jerusalem was liberated this Rabbi Eisen went to see how his old home fared in the 19 years of Jordanian control; perhaps he could come back to it. He met an old Arab he recognized from earlier times as neighbors before the war. The Arab told him that on Wednesday, the day the Israeli forces entered the old city at 4 in the morning even before the forces entered the city the Jordanians began to retreat, running. The local Arabs asked the Jordanians why they were running in retreat the Jews didn’t even come yet? They gave a surprising answer: ‘We saw the doves coming back to the Western Wall so we understood that the Jews were coming back’….”