I turned five in June 1967, and the Six-Day War is my first clear childhood memory.
Given my father's Israeli roots and the vast number of family we had there, the run-up to the war caused intense concern in our house - the kind that remains indelibly etched in a five year-old’s memory.
Etched in my memory as well is the thrill of victory. I keep to this day the New York Times with the banner headline proclaiming Israel's stunning success. At the ripe old age of five and in just a matter of hours, I had experienced the wildest of emotional swings from existential fear to jubilant celebration.
Looking back from the vantage point of 50 years, it’s clear today that the moment was in fact every bit as significant for the state of Israel and the Jewish people as it seemed, but in ways that only a few really understood at the time.
Israel didn't simply survive as a result of its incredible victory in the Six-Day War. It became stronger and more secure than its founders could ever have hoped. Today, it has fulfilled a key goal of Zionism - the Jewish people have the power to control their own destiny. And the state is far more economically and culturally successful than Zionist pioneers like my great-grandparents who arrived in the 19th century could ever have dreamt.
But today’s Israel does still face a meaningful threat to its future, its security and its democratic character. And paradoxically that threat’s origin can be traced to the very same moment of incredible success.
The threat is rooted in the state of Israel’s and the Jewish people’s failure to decide what to do with the territory and the people that were conquered fifty years ago.
This fundamental failure threatens not simply to undermine all the gains since Israel's incredible victory fifty years ago, but all of the incredible accomplishments of 130 years of Zionism.
The state of Israel and its supporters must ultimately make a choice: either hold on to the land that was won and incorporate all those who live there into the state of Israel or partition the land into two states so that the Palestinian people too may have their freedom and dignity.
This fundamental choice has loomed over the land for nearly one hundred years now.
Instead of facing up to that decision in the 50 years since Israel’s military victory, we have had 50 years of indecision. Fifty years of limbo. Fifty years of occupation and settlement. Fifty years of a dual system of laws for two peoples living on the same land.
This is not sustainable.
On the 50th anniversary, some of my friends and family will take to the streets to celebrate Israel's historic victory. Others will take to the streets to protest the occupation and vent their rage and anger at 50 years of injustice.
I choose to mark this anniversary by focusing on the road ahead and the choice that must yet be made to define the meaning of this singularly important moment in the history of the Jewish people.
Jeremy Ben-Ami is the founder and President of J Street, bringing to the role both deep experience in American politics and government and a passionate commitment to the state of Israel.