The Atlantic

How the Six-Day War Transformed Religion

Six perspectives on how the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict changed Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Mormonism
Source: Tara Todras-Whitehill / Muhammed Muheisen / Kathy Willens / AP

Fifty years ago this week, the Six-Day War dramatically altered geographic borders and political fortunes in the Middle East. For Israelis, the stunning 1967 victory meant an expanded country that suddenly included East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula; for Palestinians, it meant occupation and more displacement; for surrounding Arab countries, it meant crushing military and reputational defeat.

But the Six-Day War didn’t only transform Middle East politics: It also transformed religion—in ways that would reverberate far beyond the region. The war’s outcome impacted the way Islam is expressed in the West Bank and Gaza, and it created new openings for political Islamism in the Arab world. It strengthened a messianic strain in Israeli Judaism, and it changed the focal point of American Judaism. It had major implications for evangelical Christians, and even for Mormons, in the United States.

I asked writers with expertise and experience in each of these contexts to discuss how 1967 changed religion, broadly interpreted. Religion is often thought of as a force that drives conflict; I invited them to think instead about how conflict impacts religion. The six writers’ responses, which I’ve edited and included below, touch on everything from fashion to theology, demonstrating the many ways religion inflects people’s lives.  



Maysoon Zayid, Palestinian-American comedian, writer, and disability advocate

Fifty years ago, the Six-Day War changed the course of Palestinian history. Also 50 years ago, my mother and father got married in Deir Debwan, a West Bank village on the outskirts of Ramallah. My mom was a recent graduate of Mar Yousef, a girls’ school run by nuns. My dad had been living in America since 1959 and had come back home to marry the girl of his dreams. My Muslim parents wed three months before the Six-Day War.

My mother wore a short cocktail dress to her engagement party. In 1967, it wasn’t odd to see women strolling in miniskirts in Palestine. It also wasn’t odd to see my grandmother standing next to her wearing a floor-length, long-sleeved, cross-stitched dress and a long silky veil covering her hair.

Some say that Palestinians have become more religious than they were when they were first occupied. And in the half-century since the Six-Day War, it’s true that Palestinian religiosity has changed in some ways. The sense

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