Prayer Concerning Mandatory Military and Emotional Health

Shani Ferguson
By Shani Ferguson
Special police units are placed in volatile locations and given the incredibly challenging task of distinguishing between a Muslim who looks at you with disdain in his eyes, and a Muslim who looks at you with murder in his eyes.

My kid is in a combat unit” is a sentence parents in Israel say with pride. Kind of in the same way parents overseas like to put stickers on the car that say “My child is on the honor roll”. There are many departments one can be placed in when it comes to their mandatory 2-3 years of service in the IDF Combat units, however, are entirely voluntary. Those positions are stepped into by 18-year-olds full of love for their country and a belief that— if not them, then who?

While millions of other teenagers around the world are considering their options after high school, these kids will be put through intensive training, as part of the fight for our nation’s survival. Summer training includes being dropped off in the middle of our molten southern desert and told to find their way back to base.  In the winter they’ll be trained to do the same in the middle of a snowstorm on Mt. Hermon. After all, our enemies can come from any direction, in any season, and we need to be ready.

Some of these teenage soldiers will be told to paint every inch of uncovered skin with camouflage paint and become one with the bushes and bugs for hours waiting to catch terrorists attempting to cross over the border. Others will be posted as special police units in volatile locations and be given the incredibly challenging task of distinguishing between a Muslim who looks at you with disdain in his eyes, and a Muslim who looks at you with murder in his eyes.

Such was the duty of one young Israeli man a few years ago. He was posted at the Lion’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem with intelligence that there was a potential attacker roaming the streets (among the hundreds of Muslims walking around who pose no threat at all). As he was guarding an area that has seen multiple terror attacks—the young man was on high alert.

If you’ve ever seen surveillance of terrorist attacks in Israel, you’ve seen how quickly a person can go from casual pedestrian to rabid aggressor. So, when an Arab man wearing gloves, acting strangely and holding a suspicious object ran when they addressed him, the officers gave chase and fired warning shots in the air. Eventually he was cornered but still did not surrender and then was shot. He died from his wounds. The package he was holding turned out to be harmless and it was learned he was simply a mentally disabled middle-aged man.

The incident has devastated both the family of the man killed and the soldier who shot him. “I never wanted to hurt anyone, I only wanted to protect the inhabitants of this country I love from terrorists”, explained the officer who fired the fateful shot. The investigation showed both officers followed protocol, though at least one will still face charges. But that’s just the paperwork and the legal process that still has not resolved itself years after the factץ

Still, no matter what legal decision is made, nothing will change the fact that a family is left grieving the death of their loved one, and a young man who hasn’t made it to 20 yet will carry with him the weight of that life for the rest of his.

Prayer Concerning Mandatory Military and Emotional Health

When people visit Israel, they often comment on how somber Israelis look as they go about their daily life. In fact, one of the unique things believing Israelis are noticed for is how much they smile. For sure, our joy comes from the “lightness” that we experience due to our freedom from the heaviness of our sin, and our hope in God’s plans for the future. However, the reality is, Israel is an incredibly difficult place to live both on the surface (so expensive!!) and internally (spiritually heavy with so many emotional and philosophical paradoxes to wrestle through).

On one hand, Israelis raise their kids to love their family and their nation with all its mixed races, cultures and religions—a “live and let live; let’s build a future with our neighbors” mentality. Then at 18 they enter the hard line of the military where they must both believe what they grew up with and defend against those who don’t. And as I mentioned, on the surface both those who agree and disagree often look the same at first glance.

When going into Gaza during conflicts, Israeli soldiers have described their effort of going in with packages of supplies for the civilians in one hand, and a gun in the other to protect themselves from the very same people.

  • Father, You are the God of all that is true. Your wisdom is beyond our comprehension and Your ways are above our ways.
  • You are our peace, the lamp to our feet and our safe hiding place. There is no storm that catches you unaware. You already have all the survival items we need to weather the storm if we stay close to You.
  • Variables such as Post-COVID social agitation, the rising prices—and rising heat—have brought out increased violence and aggression on the streets, in schools, and even in hospitals between patients and doctors. We ask for a spirit of peace beginning in people’s homes and spreading from there to the workplace.
  • Yesterday, Prime Minister Bennett government declared his coalition would disperse as they no longer had a working majority. The decisions made in the weeks ahead will be crucial for whether the new elections will allow Bibi Netanyahu to be in the running. Father, we ask for a government that will rule according to Your will. Give us the choices in these upcoming elections that will bring us to that coalition.
  • There is a time for war and a time for peace—and in times of war it is crucial that we know who the true enemy is and how best to defeat them.
  • So many Israelis begin their life post-army as adults with deep emotional scars. The long-term effects this has on a society are evident on the faces of Israelis walking the streets. May those who call on Your name find healing under Your wings. May Your people be blessed with joy that rises above the circumstances.
  • Much responsibility is placed on the young minds of IDF soldiers to make split second decisions of life and death. Be there with them in this moment. Guide their thoughts and every movement they make to do what is right in Your eyes.  
  • Even off the “battlefield,” soldiers can become damaged goods. Suffering soldiers are not always identified properly and helped. Father, grant Israeli commanding officers the wisdom to know when and how to deal with soldiers entrusted to their care.
  • In Your cleverness, You are able to turn enemies to allies. Set a table for Israel before her enemies and turn individual hearts in the enemy’s camp into assets who will provide Israel with the insider information to keep her safe from attacks.
  • Protect all those in enemy territory who put their lives on the line to help protect Your people.
  • In the Bible, You spoke enemy secrets directly to Your prophets. In this way You received glory for Israel’s deliverance. Do it again in our day.
  • It is You who called Israel back to this land, and it is You who must care for every aspect of Israel’s development and wellbeing.
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