Luke Akehurst, Director, We Believe in Israel
It was the Six Day War that really sparked my interest in Israel and led me indirectly to my job today, working full-time as Director of We Believe in Israel.
I was born in 1972 so it was already history, but very recent history, by the time I became aware of it.
My family are not Jewish, not religious at all, but were very political and instinctively supportive of Israel and the Jewish Community, dating back to my grandad having Jewish friends in his teaching career and his Army days in World War Two. But other than to explain the history of the Holocaust to me there had been no reason to discuss Israel.
Then, because I was passionate about military history, I got given a big and beautifully illustrated book, the Marks & Spencer book of Famous Land Battles, by Richard Humble. This must have been when I was 7 or 8 years old, in 1979 or 1980. It started with Agincourt and ran through Waterloo, Gettysburg etc. with the final chapter being The Six Day War. I was very taken by the fact that all the previous chapters had covered a battle but this one was about an entire war because it had ended so fast. I began to ask my mum more about the pictures and maps. As an instinctive supporter of Israel she gave me a very positive account of what Israel was – the Jewish country that was a safe haven after the Holocaust – and what had happened – a tiny free country threatened by neighbouring dictatorships miraculously surviving through courage, audacity and the skills of its armed forces. She explained to me who Moshe Dayan was, with his piratical eye-patch – a bit of a hero to my mum! The maps reinforced the basic truth of the story – Israel was surrounded by hostile powers, and in comparison to them was tiny.
The things your parents say to you when you are that age sink in, even if they are put in quite simple terms. I guess for a non-Jewish kid I got a pretty good Zionist education!
Around the same time one of my earliest memories of TV news is coverage of some part of Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai. I just couldn’t believe that a country could win so much land in war and voluntarily give it up. My dad explained the idea that Israel was giving this up to get peace with Egypt. I remember seeing coverage of Sadat’s assassination for his part in that peace deal too. Again these early memories of Israel being prepared to trade land for peace had a big impact on my thinking.
Whichever aunty or uncle gave me that book probably had no idea they were sparking a lifelong interest in Israel that has seen me embrace support for Israel as one of my key political interests, allowed me to travel there many times, led to a very fulfilling job campaigning on the issue, and brought me such wonderful friendships in the Jewish Community.
This is the second in a series of blog posts by a variety of community organisations and professionals sharing their perspectives on the Six Day War.