Imagine Arab mayors and council heads sending letters of congratulations to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for a successful operation in the northern West Bank, where a major terrorist attack was foiled, or after an operation in the Gaza Strip, where senior Islamic Jihad members were eliminated. The likelihood of such a thing happening today is highly unlikely.
But that's what happened after the Six-Day War, when Israeli Arab leaders sent letters of congratulations to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, President Zalman Shazar and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. In the letters and telegrams, they praised the IDF, and some even offered to donate all their belongings to the army.
‘Long Live the IDF’
Hundreds of letters and telegrams sent by Israeli Arabs, including prominent figures, to Eshkol, Shazar and Dayan, were recently published by the State Archives. Some of the letters and messages were written in Arabic, others in Hebrew, and all of them expressed congratulations and praise for the victory in the war, a few months after martial law over Arab citizens of Israel was lifted.
"On behalf of myself and the Arab residents of Jaffa, I joyfully congratulate you, the honorable prime minister, the IDF and the people of Israel on our victory," wrote Hamis Arabid, on behalf of the Jaffa Council.
"I say to you, with respect and to the Israeli people - Happy holiday. We congratulate your steps toward peace in the Old City, to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. This is our hope and the hope of all religions. It is known that Israel champions religious freedom."
"Hearty and sincere congratulations on the remarkable victory of the Israel Defense Forces," sent Mohammad Hassan, head of the Mashhad Local Council on behalf of the council and all the residents. "We pray to God to bring peace to this region."
Azam Azam, a council member in I'billin, greeted President Shazar: "I congratulate you on the historic victory in the reunification of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and the eternal city of Zion. Long live the IDF."
Sarur Farage, the mukhtar of the town of Eilabun in the north, wrote to Eshkol: "We extend our heartfelt wishes for the victory of the IDF. We wish you victory and triumph on the international stage, and may the message of peace emanate from Israel."
Even the mukhtar of Bi'ina and the village elders sent a sweet and sour letter. "The elders and mukhtar of the village of Bi'ina express their sorrow for the losses of IDF soldiers in battle, and on the other hand, congratulate you on the remarkable victory on all fronts."
The northern Arab town of Fureidis held a council meeting on June 10, focusing on victory wishes for the IDF, and the question of who would sign the council's checks.
The treasurer of Fureidis wrote: "I, on behalf of the Fureidis Council, extend wishes to the state, the authorities and the IDF for their victory, and we hope that this may be a step toward peace in our region as a whole, and for Muslims in particular, who will be helped to visit the holy sites."
Regarding the burning question, it was decided at the meeting that the chairman of the council and the treasurer would sign the checks, after the deputy chairman of the council resigned.
'Each person is obliged to help their brave soldiers'
In addition to the letters and greetings, financial contributions were also received. Eshkol’s advisor for Arab affairs Shmuel Toledano received a letter from Mahmoud Halaileh from Sakhnin, accompanied by a donation of 50 Israeli pounds, a contribution to the Defense Ministry and the IDF. "Each person is obliged to help their brave soldiers who protect us. I congratulate the IDF on their victory," he wrote.
Rekad Ya'ad Dikwar from the village of Fassuta did not hide his excitement over the victory in the war. "In the name of the victories of the IDF, the army of triumph and eternal rule, I express my heartfelt congratulations to you and to Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, and to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, along with my donation of 200 pounds to the IDF. I hope for the healing of all the wounded. I hope that these victories will be a gateway to peace in our region and in the entire world."
Overall, the military achievement and the army itself were at the center of the congratulations and well-wishes that reached the country's leaders. "I hereby extend my heartfelt congratulations, with great honor and pride, on the great victory of the Israel Defense Forces in the battle against the enemy," wrote Muhammad Suleiman from Arraba to Eshkol. "Furthermore, I must note that throughout this period, I was confident that the IDF would stand strong in the test and teach the enemy a good lesson for the future."
Salameh Khalil Anserat wrote a letter to President Shazar, saying, "I bring you my heartfelt blessings on the absolute victory of the IDF within our borders and beyond, and I wish you long and happy life and may the IDF achieve more and more victories and our nation have a bright future and peace."
Rekia Abu Naadil from the village of Ara also congratulated Prime Minister Eshkol and his wife Miriam "on the victory of the IDF over the rabble-rousers and those seeking the destruction of the nation. My congratulations to you and the IDF on its remarkable victory and the salvation of the country. May God be with you in all your ways and exalt you above all the nations of the earth. Long live our nation forever, and may the grace of God never depart from it."
Fadl Muhammad Ahmad from Arraba also praised the IDF in a handwritten letter sent to President Shazar. "I was confident that the IDF would defeat the enemy and teach them a good lesson for the future."
Ahmad also made an extraordinary offer, "Furthermore, I dedicate myself, my entire family and all my possessions to the service of the IDF at any time. I hope that peace will prevail in our region in the future, and may the IDF and all the people of Israel live in peace at all times."
There were also those who explicitly offered to enlist in the IDF. One of them was Anis Daniel from Nazareth, who wrote to Eshkol: "On the occasion of the liberation of the Old City and all the countries and villages conquered by the IDF, I hope for peace."
'Territories conquered with blood, sweat and tears'
Many of the well-wishers could not ignore the expansion of the country's borders in the war. "In my name and in the name of the Salem family, we congratulate you on the absolute victory of the IDF," wrote Abdul Qadir Salem to Eshkol. "We hope that the full borders will be realized – from the Nile to the Euphrates as soon as possible, and we hope that the flag of the country will wave in all corners of the world."
Khaled Mahmoud Othman from Sakhnin wrote to the prime minister: "On the occasion of the remarkable victory of the IDF and the complete liberation of the second part of the Land of Israel and the vital opening of the Tiran Straits for our country, I wish you, the IDF and the State of Israel all the best, success, prosperity, a peaceful life, security and everlasting peace." Identical letters were also sent by Muhammed Abu Bakr and Michel Wahbe from Acre.
Saeed Ahmed Sah from Arraba sent a lengthy letter to Eshkol, before and after the war. "On May 28, I sent a letter of support and good wishes in my name and in the name of the Sah family. In these letters, I said, 'If we are forced into war, we will defeat them, and the God of Israel, the people of Israel, and all humanity supporting justice, integrity, peace and freedom will be with us.' I emphasized that the IDF will once again prove its bravery and talent, as it has done in every war it had to fight."
Continuing the letter, Sah wrote: "And now, forgive me, to congratulate you and congratulate the IDF, and congratulate myself on the great and wonderful victory that has been achieved by the intimidating power of the IDF forces and the people of Israel."
He also sent a political message to the prime minister: "This time we will not leave the territories we have conquered with blood, sweat and tears. We will leave after absolute international guarantees for permanent peace and with respect for Israel's sovereignty, and the free passage in the Suez and Tiran and everywhere."
A message to Prime Minister Eshkol from Saeed Ahmed Odeh, Mustafa Sharam, Mahmoud Abu Ghalya and Fayek Abu Higla from Jaljulia read, "Strength and courage to the IDF and the entire country, which has claimed the great victory and can overcome our enemies. We express our gratitude to the government and its institutions for safeguarding Arab citizens in the near future. May brotherhood, peace, and friendship prevail between Israel and its neighbors."
‘Long live the friendship between the two peoples’
Many letters were also received from educators and schools. Raif Zoabi, the Arab education supervisor in Nazareth, sent a letter of congratulations to the prime minister, in which he wrote, "Please accept my heartfelt congratulations and the congratulations of all the Arab schools in Nazareth and the surrounding area on the amazing victory of the IDF." He continued, "Our condolences to the fallen heroes, may the State of Israel live on and grow stronger."
Another message from Nazareth came from Rafiq Asleh, the supervisor at the Education Ministry for Arabs. He wrote to Eshkol: "I am pleased to send to your excellency and your honorable government my heartfelt congratulations, as well as the congratulations of the school administrators and teachers in the area under my supervision, on the tremendous victory achieved by the IDF. God willing, may peace spread throughout the land of peace."
The high school in Tayibe also expressed satisfaction with the war's results. In a message sent to Prime Minister Eshkol, it was written, "We send our heartfelt congratulations to the victorious IDF and the internal unity that led to this impressive victory." Attached to the message was a donation of 100 pounds.
Abd Alghani Qadri, the school principal in Nahf, wrote to the prime minister: "On behalf of the teachers and students of the school, I am honored to express our heartfelt congratulations and blessings on the great victory achieved by the IDF over the enemies. May the State of Israel live on as an independent state."
A letter of congratulations was also sent from Ka'abiyye to the prime minister. Ali Birano from the school in the village wrote: "On behalf of the school staff in Ka'abiyye, we express our appreciation to the IDF, the government and the people for the victory. Our congratulations to all the people of Israel. Mazel tov and may peace be near."
A message also came from the teaching staff at the elementary school in Deir Hanna, who congratulated the IDF. A message addressed to Eshkol read, "Please accept our congratulations on the victory of the IDF. We share in the grief of the families of the fallen heroes in the battle of the Israeli people. Long live the friendship between the two peoples of the land."
The education system in Sakhnin also sent its congratulations to Eshkol. "The principals and teachers of the state elementary schools in Sakhnin A, B and C congratulate Prime Minister Levi Eshkol on the victory of the IDF," the message read. A note from the Prime Minister's Office stated that a greeting card from Eshkol should be sent to the senders of the message.