The Fallen & the Free

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting” (Psalm 126:5). For the Jewish people and in the context of this Psalm, “sowing in tears” has been a reference to the sorrows endured as the people returned to the Promised Land. Both in ancient times and today, returning to the Promised Land, though initially fraught with sorrows, has ultimately proven another opportunity for God to demonstrate His great love for the people of Israel.

Today, thanks to the many who have laid down their life and thanks to the God of Israel, the nation of Israel has been re-established so that this coming Monday evening to Tuesday evening, we will be able to celebrate Yom HaAtsma’ut (Israeli Independence Day), marking 69 years of independence for the Jewish state. The day before Yom HaAtsma’ut, however, on Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), we honor those who paid with their lives as the enemy has come against this nation and this people.

The observation of Yom HaZikaron each year is a heart-wrenching experience the night before we celebrate Yom HaAtsma’ut. In my neighborhood, we gather for a ceremony in which songs are sung in honor of the fallen, fallen soldiers are named, and blessings are spoken over those who gave their lives for the nation and people of Israel. I can’t begin to describe the great sorrow I feel each year during this ceremony as I hear each name of those who I have never even known but who have given their lives to make it possible for me to live in a free and democratic nation.

It may be that Israel is the only nation in which “Memorial Day” refers, not only to those soldiers who have fallen in war, but also those soldiers who were the victims of terrorism in supposed times of peace while serving within the borders of their own nation. In Israel, serving in the military not only involves serving in times of war, but also putting one’s life at risk every day in times of peace to guard against terrorism for the sake of all who visit or live within Israel’s borders.

In 2017, we have already seen the death of 5 IDF soldiers and one visitor to Israel. As we observe Yom HaZikaron this year, join us in praying especially for the families of the following soldiers who have died since January of this year:

  • Sgt. Elchai Taharlev (20) in the car ramming attack on Thursday, April 6.
  • Lt. Yael Yekutiel (20), Cadet Shir Hajaj (22), Cadet Shira Tzur (20), and Cadet Erez Orbach (20) in the truck ramming attack of Sunday, January 8.

There have been over 1,600 Arab and Jewish Israelis killed in acts of terrorism since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Although the Oslo Accords were hailed as the beginning of the end of acts of terrorism in Israel, they have proven to only be grounds for further legal and economic attacks against Israel and the settlements and an excuse for further acts of terrorism. On Yom HaZikaron, we declare that the loss of life to terrorism is not okay and that those affected are not alone in their loss.

According to Israel’s National Insurance Institute, more than 2,500 civilians have been killed in hostile acts since the end of Israel’s War of Independence nearly 69 years ago, and yet last year alone, according to the Shin Bet, 400 attacks were prevented as over a thousand Hamas terrorists were arrested for plotting attacks. Every year Israeli security forces get better and better at stopping and preventing attacks. As tens of thousands of Israelis put on their uniforms each day to serve, we trust not that they will bring about peace, but that:

“He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper… The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” (parts of Psalm 121)

During this Yom HaZikaron, we remember those who have given their lives in service to Israel. Though sorrow has come to Israel through war and terrorism in various ways through the years, we thank God during this Yom HaAtsma’ut for 69 years in which Israel has been a free and democratic nation in which “joyful shouting” may often be heard. God is the one who will ultimately bring peace to Israel, but we can partner with Him here and now by choosing life and love in the face of the culture of hate and death fostered by Israel’s enemies.

Please join us this coming Sunday evening to Monday evening in remembering those who gave their lives in defense of Israel. Don’t forget to pray for those who’ve lost a loved one during their service in the military, especially those mentioned in this article for whom the loss is so recent. As we observe Yom HaAtsma’ut the next day, Monday evening to Tuesday evening, we remember that, although sorrow has been no stranger to Israel these past 69 years, we rejoice in the miraculous re-establishment and continued independence of Israel in our time. As Psalm 121 says, “those who sow in tears” may now “reap with joyful shouting”.

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