IDF Teaches Soldiers to Love Their Neighbor

While the world sits in judgement over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the Israeli army is teaching our soldiers to love our neighbors as ourselves.

By David Lazarus |
Shimon Peres
Photo: Photo: Flash90

I am talking about the nationwide, government-supported network of pre-military leadership academies (mechinot in Hebrew), which prepare high school graduates to serve with honor in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). This unprecedented initiative represents the essence of modern Zionism, developing vibrant and valuable future leadership for the State of Israel by giving our young people solid ethical and moral foundations while they serve in the army and beyond. “Young adults of all backgrounds, from north and south, Left and Right, religious and non-religious, dedicate one year to repairing the society in which we live, by volunteering, learning about the other and expanding their comfort zone,” Dani Zamir, CEO of the Joint Council of Pre-Military Leadership Academies (JCM), a body that oversees cooperative ventures between the different academies, told Israel Today.

The programs at these mechinot include getting acquainted with Arabs and other minorities, gaining a deeper understanding of Judaism and how it works in a democracy, working to integrate marginalized populations, and volunteering for the general betterment of local communities. As part of it’s nationwide program, the JCM has initiated a new way of helping young Israelis to better understand and serve their nation: Get to know Messianic Jews in Israel.

To the surprise of Messianic Jewish leaders around the country, many have been asked to host groups from the mechinot to explain to the cadets about their Jewish faith in Yeshua (Jesus). For me personally, it has been an honor to spend hours with these vibrant young people talking about the Bible, faith in God and why we believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah to Israel. From all my experiences with the religious and secular young people that are part of the IDF leadership training, I can tell you that these young men and women are extremely respectful, ask intelligent and meaningful questions, and show genuine interest in what it means to be a Jewish follower of Yeshua. I am proud to live in a country that gives our future leaders the opportunity to understand who the Messiah is and undo some of the antisemitic Christian versions of Jesus that our people have experienced for far too long.

Of course, this was not always the case. When I served in the IDF, I was ridiculed and prevented from joining certain units because of my faith. It was not long ago that Messianic Jews were barred from certain leadership positions, such as serving as officers in the IDF’s intelligence units or in the air force. All of that has changed as our people have come to recognize the quality and devotion of a young generation of Messianic Jews serving in the IDF and as citizens of our beloved nation.

I am a bit at a loss for words (my editor is chuckling) at the willingness of the people of this land to help their children gain a deeper appreciation for Yeshua and New Testament faith. For those of us who grew up in Israel and experienced the anger (and sometimes hatred and violence) towards Yeshua and his followers, it is not easy to grasp just how far attitudes have changed, and so quickly. But, then again, Israel is God’s chosen people, Yeshua is our Messiah, and this is as it should be.

On a similar note, the local congregation where I served for many years hosted high school students on field trips who came to learn about the history of early Zionism surrounding the Jaffa American Colony neighborhood where I was based. However, this time, in addition to the usual history questions, teachers asked the 2,000 students who visited us to give a report on “Who are the Messianic Jews?” It just so happened that one of the girls at the school is a member of our congregation, so she raised her hand, shouting, “I am a Messianic Jewess, I can tell you all about our faith!”

This article was originally published in our October, 2018 magazine.


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