Dear Friends of Israel,
A reporter named Michael Freund wrote a noteworthy piece in the English-language daily newspaper, The Jerusalem Post entitled, “Putting God back into the IDF.” He had just taken part in a graduation ceremony for soldiers who were completing Basic Training, and he described the thoughts that occurred to him as follows:
As I observed the scene, I could not help but marvel at the miracle the Israel Defense Forces embodies.
Young black soldiers, immigrants from Ethiopia, mingled easily with blonde-haired, blue-eyed arrivals from the former Soviet Union, while the children and grandchildren of refugees from places as far afield as Munich and Morocco shared a joke or two under the blazing sun.
The exiles are indeed being gathered in, I thought to myself, even if we do not always appreciate just how wondrous this process is.
I listened carefully to the messages which, for all the clichés, sought to underline the importance of service to one’s country, defense of the homeland and standing up for what is right.
But there is one thing that I did not hear, one word so central to our collective and individual lives that I practically gasped with disbelief once the event was over.
There was not a single reference to God.
Much was made of the might and power of the IDF, of Israel’s vaunted technological skill and unmatched military prowess. But there was not even a hint of humility nor a word of thanks to the One on high Who watches over His people Israel.
I couldn’t believe it.
Freund referred to American soldiers, who swear their oath with, “So help me God.” British soldiers also swear their oath in the name of almighty God.
Has the Jewish army, representing generations of Jews who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Divine name, suddenly forgotten God? Worse yet, even the ‘Yizkor’ memorial prayer for fallen soldiers has been stripped of any mention of God. In a scandalous decision made two years ago, the IDF decided to drop the recitation of the traditional ‘May the Lord remember the souls of,’ and replace it instead with ‘May Israel remember.’
He then wrote further:
Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect a military ceremony to resemble the afternoon prayer service, or for the chief of staff to give a lecture on Talmudic hermeneutics. But it is common practice throughout the Western world, even in the most secular of democracies with iron-clad separation of church and state, for military rites of passage to invoke the Creator…
One of the most compelling examples of all was General George S. Patton, ‘Old Blood and Guts,’ the colorful World War II commander who believed any successful military strategy has to take God into account. ‘I am a strong believer in prayer. There are three ways that men get what they want: by planning, by working, and by praying,’ he once said.
In early December 1944, as Hitler was preparing to launch the desperate assault against Allied troops, which later came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge, Patton interrupted his war-planning to place a call to James O’Neill, chief chaplain of the US Third Army.
According to Freund, the following prayer was composed:
‘Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.’
At the general’s instruction, the US army printed up 250,000 pocket-sized prayer cards and distributed them to every American soldier under his command.
After the Allied victory over Hitler’s evil regime, Patton gave the honor to God, not himself. In Freund’s words:
Patton knew that the line between human pride and arrogance is a thin one, dangerously so.
In closing, Freund wrote:
It is time to put God back into the IDF. With dangers mounting all around us, we need Him now more than ever.
Looking upward toward Him, who helps the righteous,