In 1960, I married an Israeli girl and, in 1964, we settled in Israel. I was conscripted to the Israeli army in 1965 and was assigned to the reserve troops.

In May of 1967, the Egyptians amassed troops in the Sinai Desert, close to the Israeli border, and closed the Straits of Tiran to shipping. Israel regarded this as a declaration of war.

While the diplomats were running between Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv, the Israeli public was preparing for war, expecting the worst. The Arab leaders were violently inciting their populations with dramatic promises to "push the Jews into the sea."

In Israel, the army started a general mobilization. First, the pilots and armored corps were called up. Then, more and more reserves were called to duty.

The Jewish burial society of Tel Aviv alone dug fifteen thousand graves, ready for civilian casualties. The threat was real More and more homes were left without parents and siblings. People were frightened, concerned for the future of Israel and their families.

Israel was outnumbered one hundred to one. The Egyptians had German scientists developing missiles and the Russians supplying them with tanks and combat jet planes. The French, who supplied Israel with Mirage fighter planes, declared an embargo on supplies to Israel with the excuse that they do not supply arms to a combat zone.

The Jewish burial society of Tel Aviv alone dug fifteen thousand graves, ready for civilian casualties.

The threat was real.

Shmuel in his uniform on the battlefield
Shmuel in his uniform on the battlefield
I was called on May 25th to report for duty the following day, Friday, the 26th. My regiment organized themselves by Sunday, where we were moved to a hill, 500 feet from a Jordanian village called Budrus.

Prior to the next Shabbat, the commanding officer, Victor, announced that ten percent of the soldiers could go home for Shabbat, a twenty-four hour leave. We were 130 soldiers and the first permitted to leave were fathers of three children and more. I fell into this category.

Unfortunately, the truck that came to take us back to civilization arrived at 7:00 p.m., twenty-five minutes before Shabbat began. Therefore, I could not go—as doing so would have caused me to desecrate the holy day. The following evening, Saturday night, again, another thirteen soldiers could take leave and I was hoping that this time I would be able to go. But again the truck came at 7:00 p.m., while it was still Shabbat. Once again, I missed out.

Victor, my commanding officer, who was not a religious man, took pity on me and said that since I missed out on my leave because of my religious principles, he would let me go on Sunday night for forty-eight hours. To me, forty-eight hours was an eternity! I impatiently waited for the day to pass.

Prior to the next Shabbat, the commanding officer, Victor, announced that ten percent of the soldiers could go home for Shabbat, a twenty-four hour leave On Sunday afternoon, we heard on the radio that Iraq sent two armored divisions into Jordan to bolster their army for the forthcoming war with Israel.

A little later, Victor came to announce that all leave was cancelled. Since we were in the center line defending Israel from Jordan, the readiness level was raised to the uppermost limit.

I was terribly disappointed, not so much because of the prospect of the war, but because my leave was cancelled!

I tossed and turned a whole night. On Monday, the 5th of June, at 5:00 a.m. I went to Victor's tent and begged him to let me go see my family even for a short period of time. Victor told me he would let me go, but only for eight hours. I'd have to be back by 3:00 in the afternoon.

No one knew that the war was to begin in another two hours. Even Victor, a commanding officer, did not know.

Shmuel in his uniform with his wife Chava
Shmuel in his uniform with his wife Chava
I did not wait to argue about the eight hours. I took my rifle, put my prayer shawl in my backpack and ran! I got a lift with a motorcyclist and arrived in Jerusalem at 8:30 a.m., where my wife and children were at the home of my sister-in-law.

One can imagine the reunion with my wife and children!

Soon after, the radio reported that heavy fighting had broken out in the south. So the long-expected war had begun.

But in Jerusalem, people felt safe. Though Jerusalem was then a divided city, with Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem in close proximity to Israeli West Jerusalem, no one believed Jordan would start hostilities.

But at about 11:00 a.m., the Jordanians started shelling West Jerusalem. We all went down to the air raid shelter, and I was the only soldier in a packed shelter full of women and children.

The truck that came to take us back to civilization arrived twenty-five minutes before Shabbat began A little later, I called up the town-major to report that I was in Jerusalem and asked what I should do. I was told to return to my unit and, in fact, I should have not been away in the first place... So I had to say goodbye to my family and in midst of Jordanian shelling, made my way to the main road where I waited together with many more soldiers. I got a ride with a police car that dropped me off in Ramla. From there, I had to walk about two hours to join my unit on that hill near Budrus. All along the way, shells were exploding in the distance and also nearby.

I got to my unit at about 5:00 p.m. I tried to look for my foxhole to take cover but could not find it. Something had changed since I left that morning. I found Victor and reported that I returned. He looked at his watch and sternly told me off for being two hours late. I began excusing myself that I got stuck in Jerusalem and so on....

He then turned to me with a smiling face and tears in his eyes, "Now I know that there is a G‑d in heaven! At exactly 3:00 p.m., a shell fell and exploded in your foxhole!"

If I would have taken leave on the previous Friday night, I would not have been away on that Monday! And I would have not been here telling this story...