This past Shabbat Beer Sheva was like a ghost town. The streets were empty except for the few cats and dogs roaming for scraps. As we drove to the southern outskirts of the city, we turned right up a dirt road and ascended the deserted hilltop overlooking the city where the Iron Dome crew await the next missile attack from Gaza.
With the population of over 200,000 nestled just below the hilltop depending on their missile defense, the crew seemed surprisingly relaxed, some even in their Shabbat tee shirts and sneakers, munching on midday sandwiches watching the skies and waiting for the next attack.
“It was not like this when those first missiles came in,” said Elisha, a Messianic Jewish member of the unit. “When the alarms went off and that first barrage of missiles came, we were really scared,” he admits. “15 rockets all at once came raining down on us,” he said, “and it looked like they were going to fall right on top of us.” The hill these brave young men and women command on the southern edge of the city is in direct line of fire of the missiles from Gaza.
“At first we were not sure the Iron Dome would work,” said Elisha. “We put on our helmets, keep our heads down and prayed” he said. “Now was the moment of truth if all our hard work training would pay off.” Pay off it did, as 85 percent of the missiles aimed at Israel’s city centers have been brought down by Iron Dome. “When we saw those missiles blown up by our unit we all started laughing and jumping up and down,” said Elisha. “We could hardly believe it!”
As we are talking war sirens ring out over the city and within seconds two rockets blast out of the Iron Dome battery on route to intercept the missiles. “Watch this,” Elisha smiles. We cannot see the incoming missile, only the Iron Dome rocket’s white tail of smoke making its way up into the blue skies in search of the deadly missile. Then sure enough we see a grey puff of smoke about a kilometer above our heads and within seconds comes the echoing boom of the missiles’ midair explosion. After a week of fighting the soldiers are far more confident in the system’s capabilities.
Civilians are also feeling much safer with the Iron Dome success. “People from the city come up here to bring us care packages,” says Elisha. “They want to tell us thanks for saving their lives,” he says. “Although it is forbidden, we allow a few to come. It’s great that we are joined together in these difficult times,” Elisha explains. “It really feels like one big family. Everyone wants to help.”
Like most Messianics in Israel Elisha is proud to serve his country. There are hundreds of Messianic Jewish believers serving in the Israeli Army. Many of them in elite fighting units now amongst the ground forces moving into the Gaza Strip. Most are exemplary soldiers who want to demonstrate that faith in Yeshua is not a betrayal of their Jewish heritage. In fact, faith in the Messiah is giving them an even greater purpose and desire to serve the nation of Israel. “I feel like I am doing something really important,” says Elisha. “This is something I have waited my life to do for my people,” he says. “I am glad that I can be here for such a time as this.”
As we were about to leave Elisha asked that we pray for him and all the soldiers in the Israeli army at this time. We assured him that we would and that people all around the world are standing with them praying. We hope that you will also join with us in prayer for these fine young men and women now serving Israel. And may God bless Israel.