“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” (Psalm 144: 1)
When violence erupts or when war breaks out, it’s the young men and women of the IDF who are called to risk their lives on the front lines of the battle.
War is looming in Israel.
Around the world, and inside Israel, the rumor mill is busy with talk about Israel potentially swooping into Iran to destroy its nuclear weapons facilities.
The threat is so real that journalists with prestigious news agencies like CNN are focusing in on Israel’s possible strategies for taking out Iran’s nuclear bunkers, and the likelihood of their success.
Off the international radar, however, is the daily occurrence of the Palestinians sending missiles into southern Israel.
Also off the radar are the contributions of soldiers who defend Israel.
These young Jewish men who have just graduated from high school (age 18-21) and girls (18-20) put their lives on the line every day facing enemy hostilities as they guard the borders of their Arab neighbors, and work in sandstorms, knee-deep mud, and all kinds of extreme weather conditions.
“The rockets emanating from Gaza are a huge threat to Israel, and demand us to be on top of things 24/7. Losing your focus for a minute can mean an explosive smuggled into Israel, or any other potential terror attack on Israeli civilians,” Captain Zoar Har Lev said (IDFblog).
Terror Attacks: Missiles and Mortars Bombard Israel
Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, terrorists have fired more than 7,000 rockets and mortars into Israel. There have been lulls and there have been escalations. This year things have escalated.
While rocket and mortar attack in January numbered 56, the numbers rose in February to 100 attacks, according to Israel Security Agency.
Last week, a non-stop barrage of rocket fire from Gaza rained down upon Israeli civilians in direct violation of international law.
Israel Defense Forces estimate that around 300 rockets were fired into Israel in a matter of days!
In the midst of the terror, Israeli soldiers who operate the Iron Dome system that intercepts missiles sent a message of reassurance to Israelis through a YouTube video.
“I promise that we will do everything possible to defend you in the best, most efficient way possible,” one young soldier said.
“I am asking you personally to stay indoors and in your safe room when the alarm goes off,” another said.
Generally homes in Israel have one bedroom that is reinforced, and can be used as a bomb shelter.
Can you imagine one of your bedrooms being a bomb shelter?
This is the reality and fear that the Jewish people live with each and every day, and it has been this way since the prophetic rebirth (Isaiah 66: 7-8) of the nation of Israel in 1948.
As Gaza terrorists continue to pound the Southern Negev communities of Sderot, Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne, and the villages surrounding them, code red alerts and air raid sirens sound frequently in the entire southern sector of Israel.
Many of our ministry worker’s families live in these areas.
Even as ten thousand Israeli school children huddle in bomb shelters, every rocket fired against Israel raises a loud Palestinian cheer.
Speaking of the effectiveness of shelling Israel, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar asked, “Which do you think is more effective, martyrdom operations [suicide bombers] or rockets against Sderot?”
What was his answer?
“Rockets against Sderot will cause mass migration, greatly disrupt daily lives and government administration, and can make a much huger impact on the government.
“We are using the methods that convince the Israelis that their occupation is costing them too much. We are succeeding with the rockets. We have no losses and the impact on the Israeli side is so much.”
Contrary to Hamas expectations, however, God has been supernaturally protecting His Chosen People. It’s truly a miracle that even though many rockets have landed in civilian areas recently, including a kindergarten, no one has died.
We are so thankful for the prayers and intercession from Christians around the world nations who pray for Israel.
Online Safety: IDF in the Classroom
Today’s IDF not only battles the enemies outside of Israel, it also battles those more subtle enemies that threaten the nation from within.
In 2001, 16-year-old Ofir Rahum was lured to his death through a Palestinian ruse in an online chat room.
Rahum thought he was talking to an American tourist, but the woman seducing him was Mona Jaud Awana, a 24-year-old Palestinian PLA Collaborator from Bir Nabala, a Palestinian town in the West Bank.
Teaching children the basics of online safety measures has become a focus for the Israel Defense Forces.
To keep Israel’s children safe, this February the Teleprocessing Corps sent 90 IDF soldiers to Israeli schools on International Safer Internet Day.
“The goal of the project is to serve the Israeli people any way we can, and not only by physically guarding Israeli citizens, but also by sharing our knowledge and information with them,” said Lt. Col. Orit Tatresky.
“Even though kids today know more about computers and the Internet than any other generation, they’re still kids–kids that need to be guarded.” (IDFblog)
The young men and women of the Israeli Defense Forces also conduct earthquake simulation exercises in kindergartens and schools to help the children be prepared for emergencies, as well as teach first aid.
Who Serves in the IDF?
Israelis joke that no one in Israel is a civilian. Even after completing the mandatory military service, all are simply soldiers on an 11 month furlough.
Jewish and Druze women as well as men over the age of 18 are required to serve a mandatory term in the Israeli military.
Generally, men serve for three years, while women serve for two, with exceptions made on the basis of religious, physical, or psychological grounds.
Following their terms of service, men are usually called up for reserve duty for up to one month a year until they reach the age of 43-45.
Many Chassidim (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews request an exemption from national military service for religious reasons.
This causes feelings of resentment towards those who refuse to serve in the IDF and is a source of contention between secular and ultra-religious Jews in Israel.
There is a distinction between the Chassidim (ultra-orthodox) and other orthodox Jews in Israeli society who do serve in the army.
However, many orthodox Jewish young women do social work at hospitals and other Israeli institutions instead of serving in the army.
On the Heels of the Holocaust: A Brief History of the IDF
Following the Holocaust, when the Arabs invaded Israel on May 15th, 1948, there was no real army to defend the new Jewish State.
What existed was a group of semi-autonomous paramilitary groups, each led by its own commander and each with its own political agenda and military loyalties.
These groups included around 10,000 from the centrist Haganah, around 3,000, from the left-wing Palmach Shock troops (mostly from the kibbutzim), as well as the right-wing Irgun and others numbering approximately 2,000.
The challenge of the Provisional Government of Israel was to take all these factions and create a single, unified, armed force which would defend the state of Israel, protect its inhabitants, and combat all forms of terrorism.
This armed force that included the Ground Forces, Air Force and Navy was called the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
In Hebrew, however, the IDF is called Tsahal, which is an acronym for Tsava haHagana leYisrael (Defensive Army for Israel).
The IDF: A Defensive Army
It has often been said that if Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations ever laid down their arms there would be peace; however, if Israel ever laid down hers, the nation would be annihilated.
The IDF is rightly called a defensive army and not an offensive one.
When the War of Independence erupted in 1948, Israel knew that in order to survive, they needed all the help they could get defending themselves against the Arabs who were attacking the fledgling nation.
For that reason every new immigrant of military age was immediately conscripted into the army.
Unfortunately, many of these were Holocaust survivors, who were already traumatized, weak and sickly from their internment in Nazi concentration camps.
They were disoriented in their new homeland, lacking in military training and unprepared for battle.
Few survivors spoke Hebrew. Most mainly spoke Yiddish and lacked the language skills to communicate effectively or even to understand the commands.
Approximately 70,000 Holocaust survivors joined the Haganah and Palmach shortly after they arrived in Israel. Many were the only surviving members of their families who had all been murdered by the Nazis.
Some of these recruits, called the Gachal (Giyus Chutz La’aretz – Overseas Recruits), were sent straight to the front lines of the battle.
Tragically, these few who had miraculously escaped death in the Holocaust were killed in action on Israeli soil.
“One of the Gachal”, a poem by Nathan Alterman describes their sacrifice well:
“And a homeland awaited him…
But he gave back his life
Some time in the night,
Dying for its sake.”
Since the War of Independence, in what seems an ongoing and never ending battle for survival, the IDF has fought many wars.
The IDF has been on constant alert to defend Israeli citizens from those who vow to wipe Israel off the face of the map!
Today with Iran threatening Israel with its nuclear potential, and the likelihood of a regional war taking place any day, we need to remember these young people risking their lives to defend the nation of Israel – the Holy Land.
These young men and women of valor are all someone’s son or daughter, husband or brother, sister or friend.
Please pray for these courageous Israeli soldiers who willingly wake up each day to defend this tiny Jewish nation from her many enemies who surround her on all sides.
As the end-time prophecy in Zechariah states, may the Lord make even the feeblest among them be like the mighty King David, and may the angel of Adonai go before them and be their rear guard.
“On that day the Lord will shield those who live in Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord going before them.” (Zechariah 12:8)