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A War-Torn Nation United in Sacrificial Death

Tents of Mercy Congregation

Kiryat Yam, Israel

United in the heroic, utterly sacrificial death of a young soldier—not even Jewish (as repeatedly emphasized in the Israeli press)—thousands, every type of Israeli, came to his funeral to pay tribute.


They came, waves of uniformed fellow soldiers, rifles slung over their shoulders, from many units and bases to express wordless gratitude to Uriah and to his family. They arrived in the northern town of Ma’alot, an easy rocket’s distance from the Lebanese border. They came to demonstrate national solidarity and to identify with a fallen comrade—a smiling, selfless descendant of German Christians who came to Israel in the late 1940s, to help us arise out of the Holocaust ashes. Only 20 years old, Uriah died of wounds inflicted by Hamas while fighting as a commando in Gaza.


The very air was soaked with emotion. Wreath upon wreath upon wreath were laid at the grave (an Israeli funeral custom) after tear-filled Bayer family good-byes and glowing descriptions of his impact on people. Following the plaintive burial prayers intoned by the IDF rabbi, rifle salutes pierced the bright, unclouded winter sky.


The value of life is measured in death. What more can someone give but their life—willingly leaving unlived the rest of their days? “Greater love has no man than this, to give one’s life for a friend” (John 15:13). In this case it was knowing, intentional, a love offering freely and gladly given.


Uriah (the Lord is my light) followed Yeshua. Of the thousands who came on that December day, only a fraction were also believers in Israel’s Redeemer. This, too, sheds light on our tortured, chosen nation. We are together in these days of trial, and we must not forget it. The Messianic community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Israelis who’ve not yet discovered their King.


The grave, war, evil, brotherly love—they all beg the question: What is human life? Our span of years is stunningly brief. Counted that way, every moment is priceless. And yet, we throw away many moments on trivia, allowing the sand of time to slip through our fingers. On this sunlit day time met with eternity. The mystery is that our forever soul is encased in the weakness of fragile flesh.


We are only ever a breath away from our physical end. This puts the spotlight on the fact of life’s immeasurable value. The value of a day, a year, a decade, a lifetime. Ultimately our value is measured in another voluntary sacrifice. It is found in the outstretched arms, the pierced hands, feet, and heart of the Perfect Man, executed on a Jerusalem hill.


On the day of Uriah’s funeral, a field of tombstones was filled with friendship. I saw tough army dudes hugging each other—exchanging manly kisses. I saw men and women looking into each other’s’ tear-washed eyes. It was an unforgettable tapestry of people, connected in love unfeigned, and joined by the outlandishness of a nation invented by the heart of God for His eternal purposes.

Photos Credit: Eitan Shishkoff


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