Father, Son, Stone by Allan H. Goodman

Part One – War


November 2035

I am Nuri. I grew up in the holy city, al-Quds. When I was eighteen, my grandfather and I walked onto the Noble Sanctuary and into the courtyard between the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

We stood at the end of a long line, waiting to enter the Dome of the Rock. My grandfather, ninety years old, leaned on me and spoke in his halting, precise Arabic. Soon a security guard recognized my grandfather and escorted us inside, ahead of the others.

“Stay as long as you like, please,” the guard whispered to us.

The cool interior of the Dome of the Rock embraced us. My grandfather led me along the railing that surrounded the rock in the center of the dome, away from the tourists and other visitors.

“I need to tell you a story, Nuri.”

I smiled. My grandfather was always telling me stories about his life.

“This one is a long one. I hope you have time today, and maybe some time tomorrow.”

“I always have time for you, jiddo.”

My grandfather hugged me and kissed the top of my head, as he had done countless times.

“You know that when you were a child, Jews used to pray next to the Noble Sanctuary.”

“Of course,” I said. “I studied it in school. They prayed in a plaza that used to be in front of al-Buraq’s Wall. They called it the Western Wall. They stopped praying there when I was five years old. Everyone knows why.”

My grandfather smiled.

“Everyone thinks they know why,” he said. “But they don’t know the whole story.”

I looked at my grandfather, my eyes wide with wonder. He never ceased to amaze me.

“And you are going to tell me?”

He led me to a small bench against the wall. We sat and he began to speak.

Chapter 1

Monday, June 5, 1967

The morning sun was warming the runways at Tel Nof Airbase in Israel. The 55th Paratroop Brigade had been on alert since the previous evening after President Nasser’s latest threats. Meir Bar-Aben knew war was imminent. His hand shook as he lathered his face to shave. He had performed training jumps, but he had never jumped in combat.

Amos Eitan, the brigade’s junior intelligence officer, watched as Meir put down the shaving brush and picked up his razor. Meir’s hands shook.

“Careful, Meir. Don’t cut your own throat before the Egyptians get their chance.”

Meir raised the razor, steadied his hand, and drew it across his face. As he did, he could hear the engines of the transport planes warming up on the runways not far from the paratrooper barracks.

Amos picked up his parachute backpack and other gear.

“Hurry up, Meir. We’re heading out.”

Meir dropped his razor in the sink and quickly wiped his face with a towel. Blood smeared from small cuts on his chin.”

Amos laughed.

“The war hasn’t even started, and you’re bleeding already.”

Amos was wrong. The war had started. A half hour earlier, Israeli jets had streaked west, emerging from the rays of the rising sun, destroying most of the Egyptian air force on its runways.

The paratroopers fell out onto the area adjoining the runway. The smell of fuel wafted in the air as the transport planes gunned their engines.

The men arrayed themselves with their gear in the morning sun and looked expectantly as the planes dropped their boarding ramps. The commander of the 55th Brigade raised his voice over the roar of the engines.

“Men of the 55th Brigade, you have been chosen for a special mission.”

Meir and Amos craned their necks forward, trying to hear above the engine noise. Before the commander could continue, three large trucks rolled up next to them. The commander’s next announcement sent the men reeling in disbelief.

“Leave your chutes on the ground where you stand. The trucks will take us to our combat assignment.”

The paratroopers groaned. They could not believe this was happening to them.

Amos turned to Meir.

“Trucks. We’re not going to get the red patch.”

The red patch was the paratrooper emblem received by those who parachute jump during combat. During the Suez campaign in 1956, the 55th Brigade had jumped. Other paratroopers who had been airlifted into combat had not jumped and had not received the red patch.

The men of the 55th Brigade dumped their paratrooper gear on the ground and lined up next to the trucks. The commander of the 55th Brigade could see the disappointment on the paratroopers’ faces.

“Men of the 55th, you have been chosen to liberate Jerusalem.”

The men cheered as they raced to the trucks.

Jerusalem was a divided city. West Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, containing its seat of government, the Knesset. The Kingdom of Jordan had occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, since Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. Several veterans in the 55th Brigade had fought in that war. As the trucks moved northward to Jerusalem, everyone understood the importance of their mission.

Inspired by Egypt’s false assertions of victory during the first day of the war, King Hussein of Jordan ordered the Jordanian Arab Legion to begin shelling West Jerusalem. The paratroopers of the 55th Brigade fought in the counterattack, encountering various pockets of the Arab Legion. By the end of the second day of the war, the paratroopers had captured East Jerusalem, except for the Old City. The 55th Brigade positioned itself outside the Old City. The defenders of East Jerusalem had retreated inside the Old City’s walls.

Lieutenant General Mordechai Gur, field commander of the Israel Defense Forces—the IDFstood on the terrace of the Intercontinental Hotel on the Mount of Olives, looking down at the Old City. The Roman Tenth Legion had camped at this location almost two thousand years ago while besieging Jerusalem. Gur had often read the historical accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. It was an utterly strange feeling for Gur now to be standing there. He was a Jewish general commanding a Jewish army, poised to retake what had been lost for centuries.

His gaze focused on the Temple Mount where the Temple once stood. Known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, the Dome of the Rock, with its gold dome, stood in the center, and al-Aqsa Mosque, with its silver dome, stood in the southwest corner. The presence of these Muslim holy sites did not dim Jewish longing for access to the Temple Mount, which remained as holy to the Jews as if the Temple still stood upon it.

The glow from the twin domes faded as the sun set.

Chapter 2

Wednesday, June 7, 1967

The third day of the war dawned clear and hot. The paratroopers of the 55th Brigade crouched just outside the Lions’ Gate in the walls of the Old City. For the past half hour, Meir, Amos, and several others could not go forward because of Jordanian sniper fire. Amos was bracing himself against the wall to the right of the gate, transmitting their position and combat conditions to Commander Gur.

Meir breathed deeply in the increasing heat and gagged. “Donkey piss,” he muttered. “This place reeks of donkey piss.”

A sniper’s bullet whizzed by his left ear, and he pulled his helmet down tighter over his forehead.


Commander Gur remained in his outpost on the Mount of Olives, gathering information from his intelligence officers near the fighting. As the sun rose over his shoulder and illuminated the city below, he received reports of intense sniper fire from the Arab Legion. His paratroopers outside the Old City could not remain there in constant danger from snipers. Finally, at nine o’clock, he received the orders from Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan that he had hoped to hear.


Amos, Meir, and the other paratroopers had maintained their positions in an alley outside the Lions’ Gate since sunrise. Suddenly, the battalion’s commanding officer received the order from Commander Gur over the radio.

“Proceed into the Old City. Secure the Temple Mount.”

The commanding officer pointed his finger toward the Lions’ Gate. Amos raised his rifle and fired directly over Meir’s head, causing stone to ricochet into the narrow alley. This gave Meir cover, and he raced through the gate followed by about twenty of his fellow paratroopers.

Immediately after giving the order to take the Old City, Commander Gur and his driver began their descent from the Mount of Olives to the Lions’ Gate in a half-track.

Meir entered the Old City and flattened himself against the wall of a building. Sniper fire was sporadic. The jets of the Israeli air force attacked and neutralized Jordanian artillery positions in the surrounding hills. Meir, Amos, and the other paratroopers advanced down the Via Dolorosa that paralleled the north side of the Temple Mount. Within minutes, Commander Gur arrived outside the Old City in his half-track. He directed his driver straight through the gate over a Jordanian motorcycle riddled with bullets. They proceeded down the Via Dolorosa and passed the paratroopers. The paratroopers gathered behind the half-track and followed.

A boy stepped into the narrow street from a doorway. Clad in a loose-fitting shirt and cotton pants, wearing sandals, he looked unconcerned at the advancing chaos and battle garb worn by the Israeli troops. He held up his hand, and the paratroopers stopped in amazement.

al-qubbat as-sukhrah? al-masjid al-aksa?” the boy spoke in Arabic.

Amos understood. “He will lead us to the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The boy pointed south through an alley. They could see the gold crown of the Dome of the Rock protruding from over a wall.

Commander Gur’s half-track turned into the alley. The paratroopers ran ahead and burst into the courtyard on the Temple Mount between the two Muslim holy structures. The sniper fire had stopped. There was no resistance here.

Commander Gur radioed General Uzi Narkiss at Central Command.

har habayit bi yadenu!” The Temple Mount is in our hands!


The paratroopers secured the Temple Mount. They found the door of the Dome of the Rock bolted with a heavy padlock. Two paratroopers approached and shot the padlock off. They entered and found themselves in silence. Heavy carpet muffled their steps as they searched for a way to the roof. They soon found a stairway that led them to a door at the dome’s base. Opening the door and stepping onto a platform surrounding the dome, they could see the entire expanse of Jerusalem stretched before them. They raised an Israeli flag over the dome.


General Uzi Narkiss left Central Command in his jeep and headed toward the Old City. As he entered the Lions’ Gate, he saw Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief rabbi of the IDF, carrying a Torah scroll and blowing a shofar. He followed the rabbi in his jeep and they quickly found their way to the Temple Mount.

As they stood on the Temple Mount, Rabbi Goren turned to General Narkiss.

“Now is our opportunity to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Do this and you will go down in history.”

General Narkiss was stunned. The consequences of destroying the Muslim holy site were unthinkable. General Narkiss did not reveal Rabbi Goren’s remark until many years later.


Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan entered the Old City soon after and came to the Temple Mount. When he saw the Israeli flag flying over the Dome of the Rock, he realized this would be an inflammatory action if reported in the press. He ordered General Narkiss to direct his troops to remove the flag.


Meir watched several paratroopers rush to the edge of the Temple Mount. They found a spiral staircase descending into an alley. In several minutes, Meir heard shouts from below.

hakotel! hakotel!The Wall! The Wall!

Meir signaled to Amos. They rushed to the staircase and climbed down the narrow stairs. The stones of the Western Wall, ha-kotel ha-maaravi, usually referred to as the Kotel, loomed gray and white in a narrow alley bounded by houses. Rabbi Goren sounded his shofar as he squeezed into the alley. Some paratroopers reverently touched the Kotel. Others embraced it. Many wept.

Rabbi Goren began an ancient Hebrew prayer.

“Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive . . .”

The soldiers joined in, “. . . and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this day.”

Several paratroopers hoisted Rabbi Goren onto their shoulders and twirled him as he blew a shofar again and again.

Meir felt numb, remembering that many of his fellow paratroopers had been wounded or killed in the fighting. He had no religious feeling for the capturing of the Temple Mount.

A paratrooper took a camera from his backpack. Amos pulled Meir next to him. Meir was oblivious as the paratrooper took their picture in front of the Kotel.

Chapter 3

Dusk settled over the Old City. The paratroopers closed alleys and streets leading into the Temple Mount. Moshe Dayan stood at the edge of the Temple Mount, looking down into the alley adjoining the Kotel, where Rabbi Goren was leading a group of paratroopers in evening prayer. He could hear the Muslim call to prayer, which would usually emanate from al-Aqsa Mosque, echoing from somewhere nearby. Moshe Dayan waited until Rabbi Goren concluded the evening prayers. Rabbi Goren finally closed his prayer book, kissed it, and ascended the staircase to meet Moshe Dayan.

“Rabbi,” Moshe Dayan said softly, “we have some decisions to make, and we need to make them quickly.”

Rabbi Goren nodded but said nothing.

“We can’t sit here and celebrate, ignoring the millions of Arabs in this world who would gladly blow us off the face of the earth for doing what we did today.”

Rabbi Goren cleared his throat and nodded again.

“We will be under pressure from our own people as well as the Arabs.”

Rabbi Goren placed his hands on Moshe Dayan’s shoulders, looked him directly in the eyes, and recited an ancient Hebrew prayer, “May the Temple of the Lord be rebuilt speedily in our day.”

The Muslim call to prayer reverberated again through the evening air, as if in response to Rabbi Goren’s prayer.

Later that evening, Moshe Dayan stood in the courtyard of the Dome of the Rock. A military reporter asked for a statement. Moshe Dayan said, “We have returned to the holiest of our sites and will never again be separated from it. To our Arab neighbors, Israel extends the hand of peace, and to the peoples of all faiths, we guarantee full freedom of worship and of religious rights. We have come not to conquer the holy places of others, nor to diminish by the slightest measure their religious rights, but to ensure the unity of the city and to live in it with others in harmony.”


Meir and Amos stood guard at the bottom of the staircase leading from the Kotel to the Temple Mount. As Rabbi Goren and the paratroopers finished their evening prayers, the paratroopers dispersed. Several minutes after the rabbi returned to the Temple Mount above, a man emerged from the shadows of the Old City. He had his arms raised above his head. He came forward, raised his arms higher, and shouted in Arabic.

ana imam. ureedu tatakalumu lakum.” I am a religious leader. I want to speak with you.

Amos motioned the man to come forward as the paratroopers held their guns steady. The man spoke again.

tatakalamu arabiyata?” Do you speak Arabic?

Without hesitation, Amos responded in Arabic.

naam. jayidun jiddan.” Yes, very well.

The man began speaking rapidly. Amos nodded and motioned to the paratroopers.

“He says he needs to speak to someone in authority. Check him, and then I can take him to the command tent.”

Two paratroopers frisked the man. Amos escorted him up the stairway to the Temple Mount. He left the man with two guards and entered the command tent alone. Amos came out a few minutes later and took the man into the command tent.

Night had fallen. Meir looked up, observing the order of the night sky. He knew that the war was still raging on other fronts. Yet peace had come to Jerusalem. As Meir walked back up the staircase to the Temple Mount, he heard footsteps behind him. He turned to find two soldiers walking up the staircase with an Orthodox Jew wearing a long black coat and carrying a canvas bag.

The soldiers approached Meir. One spoke.

“This man says Rabbi Goren is waiting for him. Please escort him to the command tent.”

Meir motioned the man to follow him.

When they reached the top of the staircase, Meir saw Amos standing outside the command tent as if he were waiting for someone.

Amos came to them quickly.

“Please follow me,” Amos said to the Orthodox Jew as he led him into the command tent.


Meir stood guard outside the command tent with several paratroopers. About two hours later, Moshe Dayan, Rabbi Goren, and the Orthodox Jew left the command tent. They approached Meir and the other paratroopers.

“The Kotel is secure, I assume?” Dayan asked.

“Yes, sir,” Meir answered. “There is a contingent below along the length of the Kotel.”

Moshe Dayan, Rabbi Goren, and the Orthodox Jew descended the staircase. They came back up the staircase an hour later and returned to the command tent. Soon Amos came out with the Muslim man. Amos was speaking Arabic to him. He led him down the staircase and returned to the command tent alone. Several minutes later, Moshe Dayan and Rabbi Goren escorted the Orthodox Jew to the staircase, and several paratroopers led him away.

Amos joined Meir later that night as Meir was resting on a sleeping bag against the wall of the Dome of the Rock.

“You seemed heavily involved. What happened in there?” Meir asked.

Amos smiled and waved his hand.

“Nothing,” he said, dismissing the question. “There’s nothing I can tell you.”


Amos remained in Jerusalem after the capture of the Old City to assist Moshe Dayan. Meir went north with the majority of the 55th Brigade to fight in the Golan during the last days of the war.

Chapter 4

Saturday, June 11, 1967

By the sixth day of the war, most of the fighting had ended. The entire nation was euphoric. Politicians and the public discussed many changes. Former prime minister David Ben-Gurion proposed tearing down the walls of the Old City built by the Ottoman Turks, so there was no division between the Old City and West Jerusalem. Others suggested building a replica of Rome’s Arch of Titus—which depicted the aftermath of the Roman destruction of the Temple—somewhere in Jerusalem, with its Latin inscription of “Judea Captured” altered to read “Judea Liberated.” Many wanted the song “Jerusalem of Gold,” which had become popular shortly before the war, to replace Hatikva as the national anthem. None of these suggested changes happened.

The Knesset received many recommendations for naming the war, including The War of Life, The War of Survival, and The War of Peace. Ultimately, the Prime Minister’s Office chose the Six-Day War, which is what the press had begun calling the war shortly after it ended. In hindsight, the name evoked the religious aura of the six days of creation and thus a renewal of the State of Israel.


On June 17, 1967, the first Shabbat after the war, the State of Israel now included the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. In the previous week, the IDF bulldozed the Arab neighborhood in front of the Kotel, creating a large plaza for the multitudes eager to visit the historic landmark. The Kotel, no longer hidden from view by the narrow alleys created by encroaching buildings, stood stark and exposed.

Moshe Dayan and Amos Eitan, together with high-ranking military officers of the IDF, ascended the Temple Mount and walked toward al-Aqsa Mosque. The five members of the Waqf, the Supreme Muslim Council that had controlled what had previously been Jordanian-controlled Jerusalem, met the Israeli delegation at the entrance to the mosque. They ushered the Israelis inside, and everyone sat on a large prayer rug in the center of the mosque. Amos sat next to Moshe Dayan. The meeting proceeded with mutual respect. Moshe Dayan stated that the Temple Mount was an important part of the Jewish people’s ancient past. Nevertheless, it would remain a Muslim place of worship under the control of the Waqf.

Thus, in a gesture of goodwill, the conqueror ceded back control to the conquered. The administrative control over the Temple Mount was to be the sole responsibility of the Waqf. While Israel now had access to the Kotel, the Waqf would continue to control the Temple Mount, just as it had done before the war.


That evening, Amos and Meir met at a small sidewalk cafe on King George Street overlooking the Old City. They hugged each other joyfully. Amos lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair, admiring the view. They could hear the Muslim call to prayer from al-Aqsa Mosque.

Meir cradled his chin in his hands, staring at the Old City.

“It seems unreal, Amos. We’re both twenty-two, and we’ve survived a war.”

Amos exhaled slowly, reached under the table into his backpack, and withdrew a small package wrapped in brown paper.

“Remember the paratrooper taking pictures? He gave me this.”

Meir opened the package. Inside was a framed photograph of himself and Amos at the Kotel.

“Thanks, Amos,” Meir said. “What’s next for you?”

“I’m not sure. I’m going back to my kibbutz for a while. What about you?”

Meir looked at Amos.

“I want to go to Hebrew University. I’ve always wanted to be an attorney.”

Amos laughed. “You are always the one with the questions. You’ll be a good attorney.”

Meir was silent for a few moments, and then he leaned forward.

“I have to ask again, Amos. Who were the Muslim man and the Orthodox Jew? What did they say?”

Amos crooked his neck and puffed smoke rings skyward.

“I told you, I can’t speak about what happened.”

“But we risked our lives to capture the Temple Mount, Amos. We reclaimed our holiest place after almost two thousand years. We lost lives. Many were wounded. Then we gave it back. It doesn’t make sense.”

Amos nodded but remained silent. Meir looked him in the eye.

“Amos, what happened? Why did we give back the Temple Mount?”

Amos shook his head.

“Meir, please. No more questions.”

Amos finished his beer, stood up, and dropped money on the table.

“The beer is on me. l’hitraot. I’ll be seeing you!”

Meir stood up and shook hands with Amos. Amos turned and walked down King George Street. Meir sat down. His question reverberated in his mind as he saw Amos disappear into the crowd.

Why did we give it back?

Part Two – Collapse

November 2035

My grandfather paused.

“Let’s take a walk outside, Nuri. I need to stretch my legs.”

As my grandfather stood and steadied himself, the security guard came over to us. He shook my grandfather’s hand and spoke.

“Whenever you come back, come find me at the guard’s station and you won’t have to wait in line.”

My grandfather said, “shukran,” and the guard smiled at me.

We walked out of the Dome of the Rock and into the morning sun. I led my grandfather to a bench shaded by a canopy. My grandfather sat and patted the bench next to him.

“Sit. We are going to be here awhile.”

I sat close to my jiddo. I sensed he was anxious to continue with his story. He put his arm around my shoulder.

“I am not boring you, Nuri?”


“Good. There is much more to tell. There is another person who fought in the war who is important to the story. Do you remember Ezer Zadok?”

“He was prime minister when I was born, jiddo.”

My grandfather nodded.

“We are going to move ahead to 2014, several years before you were born, when he was prime minister.”

We sat, and my grandfather continued his story.