Hundreds of Israel supporters around the world have submitted prayers for the families of IDF soldiers who died during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, commemorating the one-year anniversary of their deaths.
In response to an online campaign by a pro-Israel nonprofit, mainly Christian supporters of Israel from 35 countries, including Egypt, have offered a personal prayer to be submitted to the grieving families during the upcoming High Holidays.
“Losing a loved one is the most painful cross any of us could ever bear. Your loved one is always in your heart forever,” wrote Nannette Balsam from Montana. “I pray that God is carrying you through this season of sorrows. I pray that His Peace and Comfort surround you always.”
Anne-Amarie Pan from Singapore wrote, “May the memory of your loved ones be a blessing always. May you know Adonai [God] is always with you, in pain and in sorrow, in peace and in joy. Whatever the circumstances, you are not alone.”
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers died in Operation Protective Edge, which ended on August 26, 2014.
“It struck me that hundreds if not thousands of Israelis this year were observing the first anniversary of their loved one’s death. That’s traumatic,” said Jonathan Feldstein, the Israel representative of American Friends of Magen David Adom, which started the project. “A full year had passed since the war, and for most Israelis life had gone back to normal. But for many Israelis who lost someone, life will never be normal again.”
During the conflict, many Israelis attended the funerals of slain IDF soldiers, but this year, the grieving families are pretty much alone with their grief, Feldstein continued. “We didn’t want their yahrzeits to go unrecognized, so we came up with the idea to invite Christian supporters to send them their prayers. It’s a meaningful way, albeit anonymous, for people who love Israel to remember and show they care.”
Feldstein is the creator of Heart to Heart, a subdivision of AFMDA that recruits donations from Christian supporters of Israel’s ambulance service in the United States. A few weeks ago, Feldstein sent out an ad with the names of all 64 military deaths to a few thousand people on his email list to ask for recipients to send prayers to the families of the fallen soldiers “to comfort and give them strength.”
Feldstein said that the response has been overwhelming and that the original goal of gathering 10 prayers for each grieving household was met almost immediately.
“They’ve been coming in in such a pace that I’ve been unable to keep track of how many, precisely, we received. And they keep coming in. Today I woke up and had four more,” Feldstein said.
Most of the prayers come from the United States and other English-speaking countries, but some are from Israel supporters from more remote places, like India, Nigeria, and the Fiji Island.
“I pray for each one who lost a loved one, God said in his word that he would bottle up every tear, he knows your hurt & promised heal your hurts and that is my prayer, that he heals & comforts you,” wrote Penny Mcgraw of Oklahoma.
However, some prayers might make Jewish Israelis uncomfortable, as they reference Christian motifs and in some cases invoke Jesus.
“May He reveal all that He desires to you and may He baptize you in His Holy Spirit and with His glorious and most holy fire. And keep you and the family from the wickedness in Jesus’ holy name,” wrote Jacqueline Kelly from Jamaica.