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Israel supporters worldwide pray for bereaved IDF families

Responding to online campaign marking one year since Gaza war, hundreds send messages of comfort and support

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Israeli soldiers and friends mourn during the funeral of Israeli soldier Cpl. Meidan Maymon Biton, 20, at the cemetery of the southern Israeli city of Netivot on July 29, 2014. Meidan was killed the previous day when a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol regional council (Photo credit: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)
Israeli soldiers and friends mourn during the funeral of Israeli soldier Cpl. Meidan Maymon Biton, 20, at the cemetery of the southern Israeli city of Netivot on July 29, 2014. Meidan was killed the previous day when a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol regional council (Photo credit: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

Several hundred supporters of Israel from around the globe have submitted prayers for the families of IDF soldiers who fell during the most recent war in the Gaza Strip, marking the one-year anniversary of their deaths.

Responding to an online campaign by a pro-Israel nonprofit, mostly Christian supporters of Israel from 35 countries, including Egypt, have offered a personal prayer to be submitted to the bereaved 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 were killed during 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 launched the project. “A full year had passed since the war, and for most Israelis life had gone to normal. But for many Israelis who lost someone, life will never be normal again.”

During the war, countless Israelis attended the funerals of fallen IDF warriors, but this year, the bereaved 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 recruiting donations from Christian supporters of Israel’s ambulance service in the United States. A few weeks ago, he sent out an ad with the names of all 64 military casualties to a few thousand people on his email list, asking recipients to send prayers to their families “to comfort and give them strength.”

The response has been overwhelming. The original goal, to gather 10 prayers for each bereaved household, was met almost immediately, Feldstein said.

“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.”

Most of the prayers originate in the United States and other English-speaking countries, but some are from Israel supporters from more remote places, such as India, Nigeria and the Fiji Islands.

“I pray for each one who lost a loved one, God said in his word 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 Penney Mcgraw of Oklahoma.

Some of the prayers, however, 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 of the wicked in Jesus’ holy name,” Jacqueline Kelly from Jamaica wrote.

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