The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are using the teachings of Jesus to help train soldiers.
And why not? He is the Jewish Messiah according to many prophecies, and his teachings are rooted in the Hebrew scriptures, reflecting the best in Jewish wisdom and faith.
Still, reports have been coming out on Israeli media from IDF soldiers complaining about using the New Testament teachings as part of their military preparation. In one training program for battlefield medics, IDF officers are using the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of caring for those who have been injured, including Jews, Arabs, and anyone in need.
Eitan, a soldier who had completed his training in the medic program told the online news portal News 0404:
“We were shocked. In an innocent first aid lesson, the commander opened by reading from the New Testament and explained how Christianity was a religion of peace and grace. He tried to teach us how much Jesus cared for people and how much we needed to learn from him to provide first aid as soldiers in the IDF.”
What Eitan and others may not know is that the IDF has been instructing soldiers about Jesus and the New Testament for some time now. I reported on this earlier this year in IDF Teaches Soldiers to Love Their Neighbor.
According to the report another soldier wondered why the army couldn’t use “Jewish sources” to teach military ethics in the Israeli army. Another felt “degraded and humiliated, and that the IDF is pushing crazy leftist hallucinations for every young person in Israel.”
I applaud the passionate commitment of our young IDF soldiers and their desire to defend the Jewish nation with their lives and to be guided by Jewish values as they serve. I myself served for 25 years in regular and reserve duty, and in my opinion there is no army in the world that strives to defend its homeland with the kind of bravery, honor and high moral standard like Israel. That was at a time when we were not told anything about the New Testament. We did receive, as does every soldier conscripted into the IDF, a copy of the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament).
The fact is that IDF’s generals and officers are now instructing those whose job it is to train new recruits to use the teachings of Jesus in order to help our young people serve their country with greater distinction. Good for them. Why shouldn’t our young people be exposed to teachings by Jesus that shed enlightened meaning on the Torah and the Prophets? What better preparation to serve your country with honor?
Benzi Gopstein, a political activist and chairman of the right-wing Lehava group had an interesting take on how the teachings of Jesus are impacting Israeli soldiers. He believes that IDF open-fire regulations “protect the lives of the terrorists and are also expressed in the insanity of distorted values in the idolatrous teaching of Jesus to ‘turn the other cheek.’”
Admittedly, Jesus’ teaching in this verse is not easy to understand, but certainly cannot be used to support laying down our weapons and not defending our people from terrorists. Perhaps Gopstein himself could learn a thing or two from Jesus.
Whether or not they like the fact that the teachings of the New Testament are being discussed in the Israeli army, Jesus is attracting Israeli people across the entire cultural spectrum and there is a sea-change in Jewish attitudes toward the One from Nazareth. We have been reporting on this phenomenon over the past few years. Here are just a few of our reports on how the Israelis are thinking differently about Jesus.
Check out how attitudes towards Jesus are radically changing as Influential Israelis Speak About Jesus
Also, see our series on Messianic Jews in the Eyes of Israel
There is even a Messianic Soldiers Fellowship in Israel
Or how about Israel’s Christian Soldiers Find Their Voice