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My Friend Lives 700 Feet from the Gaza Border. His Family’s Homeland Deserves to Exist.

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Raz Shmilovich is my friend, and I am honored to call him a colleague as well. He lives 700 feet from the Gaza border in Israel.

Two weeks ago, Raz saw 20 of his neighbors brutally murdered by Hamas. After the massacre, he had to run into their houses to grab their toothbrushes, hoping to secure a DNA match for otherwise unidentifiable mutilated bodies. His son watched a friend die on a livestream.

As an Israeli army reservist, he’s now been called up for armed patrol of the area. He’s been evacuated with his four children, and he knows better than most of us how brutal and horrific the attacks on Israel have been.

But the sheer wickedness on display isn’t the only reason these attacks should appall us. The attacks aren’t normal military maneuvers. They are aimed at extinction or abolition, not at victory.

Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, the only place where they can control their own destiny and defend themselves in their own power. Israel is their past, their future and their present. The violence they face now is the violence of terrorists who want Israel wiped off the map and its Jewish citizens killed.

This violence isn’t just a territorial dispute. It isn’t even an expression of clashing ideologies, cultural differences or old resentments. It is existential: Israel has a right to exist, and Hamas terrorists — along with others in the region — want it gone.

But Raz trusts Israel will emerge victorious. I trust it will, too. Raz and Israel have both suffered greatly before. Unfortunately, they probably will suffer again. But Israelis are resilient, and they will rise.

“Am Yisrael chai,” goes the refrain. “The people of Israel live.”

They do. In the face of such evil, they live. They suffer, certainly. They mourn lost homes and broken families, but they live — and they will rally, rebuild and restore peace. American Jews and friends of their communities have rallied together here in the U.S. to send resources. One story circulated of an Orthodox Jewish man paying for the tickets of 250 men and women who’d been called up for Israeli Defense Force service, and were flying to Israel.

In Israel, Raz and service members like him are patrolling Israel to prevent further violence. In time, they will help safely return displaced families seeking to rebuild their homes and lives. They will build peace in their nation. 

And hopefully, in generations to come, Israel will no longer face hatred so complete and so blind as it does now.

But they cannot build peace or reconciliation without our support, commitment and prayer. A future of peace begins in this time of war. And so we must pray. We must take action, speak the truth, and pray fervently.

As Christians, Israel is the place where our faith first began. Our spiritual heritage is intimately intertwined with this land, and our roots run deep in Israel. Jesus and his disciples were Jewish. Most, if not all authors of the Bible were Jewish. There would be no Christianity without the Jewish people.

God still cares about this land and the Jewish people in particular because of His covenant with them. The Prophet Jeremiah says, “He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar….only if these decrees vanish from my sight will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.”

To me, the mandate as Christians to support Israel and the Jewish people is clear. We must take action in whatever way we can, and we must pray earnestly for the safety and courage of men and women like my brave friend Raz, as they fight for Israel’s present and future peace.

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About The Author


Scott Phillips is the CEO of Passages, a nonprofit organization offering Christian college students a fresh and innovative approach to experiencing the Holy Land.