The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War

Authored by Steven Pressfield, Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner

Audiobook, 14 hours and 1 minute

Published by Penguin Audio

Language: English


The Six Day War began on 05JUN67 with Israeli air attacks against Egyptian airfields which destroyed most of the Egyptian Air Force.  In preceding days, Arab forces from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, reinforced by expeditionary forces from Iraq and Saudi Arabia had been massing on the Israeli borders, and Egypt had closed the Straights of Tiran to Israeli shipping in violation of the UN agreement.  Arab radio broadcasts were openly calling for the invasion of Israel and the destruction of its people, and terrorist incursions were increasing.  Surrounded and facing numerically superior forces, the Israeli government determined the best chance for survival of the country laid in launching a preemptive strike.

Although the Israelis initially hoped to limit the conflict to the Egyptians and to avoid having to fight on multiple fronts, the Jordanians quickly joined in, followed by the Syrians a few days later.  Ironically, the widening of the war was due in part to the Jordanians and Syrians believing Egyptian propaganda broadcasts, which claimed the destruction of the Israeli Air Force in the initial attacks and minimized Egypt’s own losses.  The widening of the war resulted in the Israelis repeating their aerial assaults against their new foes, with similarly devasting results to the Arab air forces.  On the ground, Israeli troops displayed remarkable local initiative and exploited opportunities to seize the West Bank, the Golon Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the Siani Peninsula.  The most significant victory from a cultural standpoint was the taking of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, where Jews had been forbidden access for over two thousand years.

To write this book the author interviewed more than sixty Israeli combat commanders, soldiers, and politicians.  The story is told in a narrative style from the perspectives of the people involved, in their own words.  It is not meant to be a comprehensive history of the entire war, but focusses on the way things unfolded in specific actions, minute by minute.  The main stories are the strikes on the Arab airfields, a recon company in an armored brigade, a helicopter squadron commander, and the paratroopers who fought in Jerusalem and entered the Old City through the Lion’s Gate.  The planning and political considerations prior to and during the war are also revealed, again in the participant’s own words.

This is a fascinating story, and the author has chosen an excellent way to tell it.  I would recommend that the reader has some familiarity with an overall history of the Six Day War to help put some of the actions into context, even a superficial treatment such as the Osprey Campaign volumes would be sufficient.  Even without that, the stories of the individuals involved are well-told and engaging.  Recommended.