Shai: A Priceless Sacrifice
by Eitan Shiskoff, Executive Director, Tents of Mercy Network

One of the IDF soldiers who gave his life to defend us in the 28 day conflict with Hamas was a Jewish believer in Yeshua. Shai Kushnir grew up in our congregation from the time he was 4 years old. I knew him well. As a teen, his constant smile and fun-loving, easy going nature belied his intense desire to serve in a combat unit.

Shai in winter uniform
An only son is not required to do combat duty in the Israeli army. One can choose office work and fulfill the military requirement with honor. Yet Shai insisted and would not relent. Finally, his father signed the waiver. Shai trained diligently and became a medic. At one point he carried a fellow soldier on his back, removing him from the battlefield in Gaza. From the pudgy boy who rarely seemed serious, he had become a heroic, selfless young man, more concerned with others' safety than his own.

Thousands attended the memorial service held for Shai at a military cemetery near Haifa. Many of them had not known him or his family. Such was the outpouring of gratitude and grief that occurred again and again for the 64 soldiers who gave their lives to give us ours. Officers eulogized our young brother in moving terms. They highlighted his dedication, his popularity among the troops, and the focus with which he applied himself to military service. We wept, and are still weeping.

Shai playing guitar together
with Eitan and Maxim
How can we possibly measure the value of Shai's life? For me, standing near his grave, surrounded by sober, resolute, tender yet sinewy infantrymen, that value is framed by the divine mandate to make our home here, in Eretz Yisrael. From the cemetery I can see Mount Carmel, one of our country's biblical and geophysical landmarks. I'm reminded of God's declaration to Abraham: "I will establish my covenant between me and you ... for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also, I give to you and your descendants after you the land ... all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (Genesis 17:7, 8).

Shai wrote praise songs and played guitar in our youth group. Now, in the Lord's presence, he is able to lift his voice as never before. Dare I imagine Yeshua, His arm around Shai, saying "Well done, son, I laid down my life to save Israel too."

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