Here are two letters from a father in our congregation to his combat soldier son who fought in the Gaza offensive. To help you enter in to the all too familiar experience of Israeli parents with children serving in the IDF we asked permission to print this correspondence in our Oasis magazine. As he was completing his first letter, his son called for the first time in many days to let his family know he was OK and was coming out of Gaza for a brief rest. He then penned the second letter and the whole family drove down to a base in southern Israel to embrace their soldier son.
My dear son,
I wish I could get this letter through to you right now. You've already been in action for ten days. Only God and your fellow soldiers know what you've been through. But the main thing I want you to know is that I am proud of you - unspeakably proud. You said all along that you wanted to be a fighter, that you chose an infantry combat unit in order to defend the country. You've been pretty matter of fact about it, especially after the initial novelty of hard training. Lately you seemed bored and wanting a chance to use what you've been learning; well, I guess you got that chance.
I just saw a picture on my screen saver of you with your nephew, lying on a couch together during our family vacation. What a joy to see you! What a reminder of the well of affection that is ready to flow out of me in your direction. What a true man you are. I love it that you are like that; so fun-loving with small children, even though you are also a warrior.
So, how does it feel to be in battle? What have you been doing, exactly? I think often of the danger you must be in ... and I pray. But then I go back to daily tasks until I remember again. That feels weird because you don't have the luxury of forgetting. You're living it.
I keep reading the papers and watching the news. But I don't see or hear you, so it's not very satisfying. The good part about that is that the damage to Hamas seems substantial (very unfortunately along with the civilians they so wickedly use as their shield), while our casualties (though each and every loss is a tragedy) have been minimal for such an operation. I might be a sincere believer, but entrusting you to God at a time like this is the acid test of faith.
Are you feeling, cold, wet, tired, scared and dirty? Or, motivated, courageous, adrenalized, alert, and merged with your companions in the crucible of war? Maybe it's a kaleidoscope of all that and more. In contrast, I feel numb at times. At other times I'm fired up to pray, to "storm heaven" for your sake, for the entire IDF and for Israel.
One thing I'm glad of is that (international opinion to the contrary), this is a just and necessary war. Our government showed an unnatural level of restraint during the three plus years since we yanked all of our citizens out of northern Gaza. In that time Hamas utilized Israel's gift of new real estate for one purpose alone: to launch rocket attacks on our cities - to the tune of over 6,000 rockets and mortars. So, your presence is a righteous response to an evil that knows no other deterrent. Thank you. Thank you, son, on behalf of all the citizens of Israel, and all those in this world who love justice.
You are not a hard-hearted or hateful person, far from it. My prayer is that this experience will not rob you of that deep and caring heart. Though you must be tough, resolute and even ready to kill - when this is over, you will have the rest of life to raise a family and to bring aid to those in need. In the life-time battle for good in this world, you will need a heart without too many scars. May God keep you from cynicism, disillusionment or disinterest. May your splendid gifts and potential have plenty of years to develop, to flourish, to bless, to build.
Last night, after 11 days of action, 11 days of not hearing from you or knowing exactly how you were, you called. We were overjoyed. Your mom whooped and hollered. I cried. Your sister smiled. We couldn't get over it. It was actually you! The relief, the thankfulness, the happiness, the waves of love - it was amazing. And you sounded just like yourself. That must sound stupid to you, but you have to understand something ...
Spending these days trying to imagine your situation, your experience, we couldn't know (other than by faith) how you would come through it. To hear your perfectly normal, mannish, boyish, everything-is-fine-and-I'm-doing-well voice - Wow! And we had just come home from a dynamic prayer meeting, declaring God's word over you, the rest of the IDF, the government and all of Gaza - overwhelming.
We crowded around the cell phone just to listen ... to hear every word. You're safe. Even now, the next morning, I'm trying to absorb it. Now, of course, we need to press in ... to keep praying. You'll likely have to go back in during the next few days. We are not unmindful of the continued sensitivity of the situation. It is so important to remain dependent on the Lord, not to indulge in triumphalism or overconfidence.
Have you been praying? I really hope so. I'm eager to know how this has been for you on the inside. What does it feel like to be part of an army, with tanks and radios - sweeping through streets and buildings, looking for terrorists whose energies are focused on destroying or kidnapping you? This is what has motivated us to pray at all times throughout these days.
I wish you well, precious man. I'm proud of you. I said it already, but I need to keep saying it. You have to know what a fine thing you have done - choosing combat duty, devoting these years to serving Israel, serving Adonai in the IDF uniform. I know that much of it has been boring, tedious, seemingly senseless, aggravating. But all of the preparation - the guard duty, training on weapons, rehearsing scenarios over and over - It was all worthwhile when you actually had to enter battle. I don't want to over-spiritualize, but I hear the still small voice saying, "Do you hear what you just told your son? This is the very nature of spiritual warfare too. The daily exercises of praise, prayer, Scriptures, helping people - all these are to ready you for the battles to come."
May this taste of war provide you with skills relevant to your future. When your full time commitment is completed, you've said you want to travel some, to earn money abroad and then return to Israel for education, to establish a family and to work at something meaningful. May the Most High truly bless you and craft your destiny. I'll be praying then, too. Because your life is a gift to us and, I believe, to Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) ... I'll be praying; I'll be backing you. You see, when you were born, you opened our eyes and our hearts to the wonder of God's renewal, to the exquisite joys of being a father and a mother. We were ecstatic about your arrival. We still have albums full of pictures. You've come a long way, baby. Look at you now: A man, an Israeli, a soldier, a Messianic Jew, a real mensch. I love you my son.
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Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Daniel Juster: Shrunken Cloth|
|Marty Shoub: Portrait of the Artist|
|Asher Intrater: War in the Heavenlies|