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Some thoughts after four months of War by Aaron Hecht


IDF troops on the move (IDF Spokesperson's Office)

When I was in college, I was at the mall one day and I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that said "Life's tough, get a helmet!"

I'm not sure what point the man who was wearing that T-shirt was trying to make, but this bit of wisdom always stuck with me. It's taken on added urgency in the last few days as the government issued a formal statement to the general public that, in light of the escalating violence on the northern border, there is a need to prepare for the very real possibility of catastrophic damage to civilian infrastructure all over the country.

This is because the IDF estimates that in the event of a large-scale war, Hezbollah might be able to make incursions across the border and there would likely also be a rise in terrorist attacks, including here in Jerusalem where I live. But the biggest threat comes from Hezbollah's ability to launch up to 8,000 rockets a day into Israeli territory, and this bombardment could continue for several days or even weeks. This would include some very large rockets with precision guidance systems which would likely be used to target the electrical power grid.

In light of this, the government is urging Israeli citizens to have enough non-perishable food and water in their homes for at least three days, because if there's no electrical power there won't be any way to pump water into homes and it won't be safe to go out to the grocery stores.

But beyond that, the rockets which might be exploding in the air as they are intercepted above my head, or even impacting the ground near me if the interceptors don't get them, will be throwing off a lot of hot shrapnel. I obviously need to try and avoid getting hit by such shrapnel myself, and also protect my wife and children from getting hit by it. That means making sure our bomb shelter is in good shape, which is something I have been spending a lot of time on in the past couple of weeks. It also means having the tools to put out a fire, because debris from intercepted rockets falls to the ground and causes many fires.

I have no doubt Israel will defeat Hezbollah in any potential conflict, but I also agree with the IDF estimates of massive damage to Israel's civilian infrastructure from such a conflict. So I'm doing what I can to be as prepared as possible, and the focus has been on getting tools and equipment that will be useful in taking care of myself and my family if the things we usually count on, especially electricity, suddenly become unavailable.

It also included getting a helmet.

At first, I went looking for a ballistic helmet made of Kevlar. Large numbers of such helmets have been brought into Israel in the past four months, many of them purchased by private organizations and donated to soldiers. Others were donated to civilian emergency first responders, security teams and others who might have to be out in the open while bullets and/or shrapnel are flying around.

But what I quickly discovered is that such helmets are kind of expensive (and I have limited funds that I need to use for many different things that are at least as important as a helmet) and the cost of having it shipped to Israel would add a lot on top of the purchase price. In addition to that, a friend of mine who is a police officer told me that if the cops see a civilian like me wearing such a helmet but who isn't working for any kind of emergency first response team or as a security guard or whatever, they'll probably think I stole it from somewhere and they might confiscate it. I asked my friend what to do and he said "don't worry about it, you probably won't need one."

I love the guy, but that answer didn't reassure me one bit.

So, not knowing what else to do, I went to Amazon and did a search for "military helmets" and to my amazement, something showed up. It was a reproduction M1 GI helmet like the one Grandpa wore when he was hitting the beach at Normandy. There were actually a couple of them, made by different companies, and they only cost around $70 including shipping to Israel.

I asked a man who had been in the US Army National Guard with my father back in the day if such a helmet would be worth getting. He told me, with a sense of humor typical of his generation, that as long as I don't make the mistake of getting shot in the head at close range this kind of helmet would probably protect me from most shrapnel and flying debris as I was likely to face in the event of a rocket barrage.

I thanked him and bought the helmet. It arrived a few days later and of course, I took a picture to post on Facebook, making a joke that I'd finally found the perfect hat to go with my favorite jacket.

Aaron wearing his WWII GI helmet from Amazon.

But jokes aside, my search for a helmet included the calling to mind of Paul's famous exhortation from Ephesians 6:14-17; Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 

This passage has been the subject of countless sermons and commentaries over the centuries and my personal favorite is from Derek Prince, who said, referring to the "helmet of salvation" that it made the point about protecting the head, or the mind, with the "hope of salvation" which would produce optimism. So the way you guard your head from gloomy thoughts that might lead to despair is to always be optimistic, and the way for a Believer to maintain that optimism is by never forgetting that they are saved and their future with the Lord is assured. No matter how bad this current life might be, a better future is coming.

And that, brothers and sisters, is one of the most important and at the same time most difficult commands in the entire Bible, at least for me personally.

A need to feel safe and secure is one of the strongest compulsions that human beings have. It has been a driver of human behavior and activity, both individual and collective, down through the ages. In fact, for many people and even entire societies, the things we look to for our security can become idols.

It's something that can happen to any one of us.

I tell myself that my search for a helmet (not to mention the fire extinguishers, hand tools, water containers, and other stuff I've bought in the past few months to try and protect my family from possible dangers the current situation presents) was motivated by prudence. But there were moments when I had to stop and think about whether I might be putting too much trust in this stuff and forgetting that my real source of safety and security is nothing other than God Himself.

As Psalms 20:7 reminds us, Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

That act of trusting in a God that we can't see has been difficult for people going all the way back to the very beginning. That's why idolatry was and still is the default human reaction. Putting one's faith, trust, and hope in something tangible, whether it's a statue of a "god" called Dagon in ancient Canaan, the statue of Artemis in ancient Greece, or the statues of Zeus and Apollo in Rome a few centuries later, is the most natural thing for humans to do. In the 21st century, few people bow down to statues but they DO put their faith, trust, and hope, not to mention finding their identity in ideas such as "feminism" or "the Alt-Right" or "Antifa" or any one of dozens of other similar phenomena around which cults are built. This is no less idolatry than what the ancients practiced.

These things give people identity and a sense of communal belonging, which leads to a false sense of security because they all fail at some point.

Having any kind of traumatic experience can shake a person's faith in whatever it was that they thought was providing them with security. This includes surviving a natural disaster (I've survived more than my fair share) or a car wreck, a workplace accident (I've survived one of those too) or being physically attacked during some kind of criminal incident or in a war, or even losing a job or a loved one unexpectedly. Any of these types of situations, where something changes without warning and leaves you in worse shape than you were a short time ago can shatter one's illusions of safety and security and leave one with the realization that one's existence is quite fragile.

This is usually a great shock and almost everyone who goes through such an experience will experience some measure of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)

I know a lot of people who read blogs like this one aren't going to like this part, but it must be said that Benjamin Netanyahu was an idol for many Israelis and many Israel-supporting Christians as well. The IDF was too, and there's no point in denying it.

Netanyahu's image as "Mr. Security" won him a lot of support and it's probably the one factor that best explains his long tenure in office. The October 7th massacres badly damaged that image, and by extension, it damaged the entire right-wing in Israeli politics. Polls show that a solid majority of Israeli voters are now ready to give a more centrist political movement a chance. For better or for worse, the automatic electoral majority that the Right in Israel has enjoyed for a generation can no longer be taken for granted.

The IDF and the security establishment in general has also taken a severe hit in terms of the faith that the general public put in it. Once again, for better or for worse, the people of this country no longer automatically believe their legendary armed forces and intelligence services can protect them from everything all the time.

This has made Israelis more open than at any time in living memory to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and if you're praying for Israel at this time, please include prayers for the ministries and organizations that are sharing the Gospel with Israelis. While you're at it, pray for those ministries and organizations who are NOT sharing the Gospel with Israelis, that they will see their error and correct it.

Getting back to trauma and losing faith in false gods, in a world that has always been unstable and dangerous but which is rapidly getting even more out of control, every single human being walking this earth's surface is likely to have such an experience sooner or later, maybe more than once.

This is making people more desperate and unpredictable, but it's also making them more open to the Gospel.

For those who already have faith in the Gospel, it nonetheless can be difficult to "put on the helmet of salvation" and have an optimistic attitude about the future.

That is why I covet your prayers, for myself and my family and for the entire nation of Israel. Developments in the past week especially have made it more and more likely that a big war with Hezbollah in the north is a matter of when not if. I feel like I've done all I can to prepare myself, my family, and the building I live in for that eventuality. 

I'm asking anyone reading this blog to help me out by praying for protection for us and wisdom for the government of Israel and all the other countries that are part of this drama. If you can do more than pray by sending some kind of support to a ministry you trust that's working here in the Land to assist people in this crisis, please keep sending that support. This is not going to be over any time soon, and we're going to need your help for a long time, even after the shooting stops.

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