Born at 415 grams, today a team player in the IDF

For the last month, most of the blurbs of information that appeared in the news media here focused on the upcoming election, presently slated for early April. Of course, there were other articles and discussions, covering a range of subjects – politics, terror tunnels, confrontations along the border fence with Gaza, anti-semitism, health and medicine, economics, religion, family, archeology, crime, hi-tech inventions, entertainment and sports and more. They were the regular items that make up the heartbeat of the country. But, the heavy emphasis was on politics. Sometimes, I think we need a national pacemaker to keep us on an even keel. Then there were reports regarding the unholy alliance that makes up the Iranian-Shiite axis throughout the Middle East that encompasses Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Gaza) and their existential threats to Israel. We shouldn’t forget that Russia continues to flex its muscles and exert its influence, primarily in and around the Syrian arena. 

Granted, the next election will probably be one of the most important in our history. Platforms will be important, but less important than the personalities of the people who lead the different parties. There is a concerted effort by committed leftists and newly-declared (and undeclared) middle-of-the-road, leftist leaners, to remove Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Over the years, Netanyahu has proven to be a skillful politician and an adept statesman, turning enemyship of various countries to friendship. Who is best suited to run the country and provide for its defense – a seasoned politician or a former military commander? The next election will provide the country with an unprecedented opportunity to answer that question. In this regard, it is fair to say that most of those who held high positions in the military, who strategized and fought for the defense and protection of Israel, somehow, somewhere along the line, fail to see the same objectives once they leave the military and don a suit (with or without a tie, depending on the audience).

The past year, as well as this past month and even this week, witnessed the growing cancer of anti-Israel activity by individuals, organizations and countries. This tiny stretch of desert sand has become an obsession with some, who continue to make baseless comparisons of Israel with evil and despotic dictators and regimes, who seek to impose economic boycotts on goods and services emanating from different parts of this country and who even want to criminalize commercial ventures with us. 

We are a resilient nation, unwilling to lay down and die. We exist as a fulfilment of a promise that God made that He would gather us from the nations and bring us back to this land. It is absurd to ask us to account for our legitimacy. “Never again!” means just that, “Never again!” As our former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, once said: “We refuse to disappear, no matter how strong and brutal and ruthless the forces against us may be.” 

There is a spirit within the people here that says that difficulties are only challenges that we need to find a way to overcome. Our perception of the problem, rather than the problem itself, usually determines how we will respond to it.

Such was the situation with Corporal Joshua (his real name is not used here). He was born a “preemie”, weighing in at only 415 grams (14.6 ounces), the equivalent of two pieces of chocolate, and he had cerebral palsy. The doctors gave him only a 5% chance of survival. Last week, he received a Certificate of Excellence from the IDF following his involvement to foil a terrorist attack. In his words, “I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders.”

The article appeared on the website of the IDF on 31st January, 2019, in Hebrew. His story began long before he was able to cross-reference the data that would result in saving human life. He was the youngest preemie in Israel ever to survive up to that point. The doctors thought he would never be able to walk or to speak. But, their negative evaluation did not discourage his parents, who were not willing to give up on him. He was their son. They wanted the best for him. They wanted him to succeed. With full cooperation of the medical staff, they got him to stand on his feet and walked with him the entire way with one goal: that he would grow up and become independent. And so, today Corporal Joshua is a regular soldier in a combat intelligence unit of the IDF.

He spoke his first words when he was two and a half years old and began to walk at the age of three. But, the celebration didn’t last long. At the age of five, while crossing the street with his father, a speeding car hit him head on. All his work up to that point was for nought, as he began a long period of rehabilitation and had to learn how to walk all over again. During this time, the doctors emphasized over and over again that, apparently, he would not be able to use his legs again.

But, Corporal Joshua was not willing to accept what others claimed to be his fate. At the end of months of rehabilitation, he learned to walk again and was determined, more than ever, to embark on a new course in his life. “I never lived under any illusions; I knew from an early age that I was not exactly like everyone else, but I have a motto that goes: ‘What is possible – we will do, and what is not – we’ll break down barriers’ [adding] I wanted to prove to everyone that notwithstanding all of the predictions [concerning me]… there wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t be able to do.” 

He went to a special-needs school until the second grade and then continued in the regular educational system, completing high school just like everyone else … and without any special privileges. After receiving his first induction notice [which students usually receive in the 11th grade], the medical staff informed him that he was released from having to serve in the military. This resulted in a lengthy process during the course of which he requested to volunteer to serve the country.

After completing twelfth grade, he attended a pre-military induction course, where he was taught to press on to the full extent of his ability, to accomplish every goal he needed to accomplish and to make the impossible possible. It was during this time that an army officer came to speak to the class. Corporal Joshua saw this as his opportunity to fight for his place in the system. After the meeting, he approached the officer, introduced himself and succeeded to convince the officer to take him under his wing. The same officer helped him to complete the process of volunteering. 

To the surprise of “the system” that exempted him at the outset from enlistment, Corporal Joshua actually flourished in the military. His peak came about two weeks ago. At that time, he brought important intelligence information that resulted in our forces in Judea and Samaria undertaking a nighttime operation to capture a warehouse loaded with weapons, that would likely have been used in a significant attack against Israeli citizens. As he stated: “I received an assignment to investigate a certain area, and after I cross-referenced many sources of information, there was an indication of weaponry in one of the villages in the sector.” On the basis of that information, a combat unit was dispatched to that location and it discovered a warehouse full of weaponry of different kinds.

Following the successful operation, Corporal Joshua received a Certificate of Excellence directly from the commander of the unit. “It was only after the [military] operation was completed that I was able to grasp that the information that I supplied helped to thwart a future attack … I am glad that I had the privilege to lead to this accomplishment, but for me, as soon as this operation was over, I moved on to the other missions that were lying on my desk. The greatest thanks goes to everyone in my department who does a great job every day to discover terrorism and to thwart it in time.” He added in conclusion: “During the time of the pre-military induction course, the instructor used to say: ‘When we walk alone we arrive quickly, and when we walk together we go far’. I am happy to take part in a corps that really does a significant job and succeeds in achieving objectives precisely where my story has released me from taking part. I proved that even a guy like me can carry heavy responsibility on his shoulders. I get up every morning in order to do the best that I can, with a desire to prove that even the sky is not the limit…I believe that if we want something, we need to achieve it, and so what can be done – we do, and what is difficult to do – we need to exert effort until finally, we also succeed.”

Way to go, Corporal Joshua! May there be a multitude of others who are willing to face the challenges before us with a proper attitude, even the attitude of an 85-year-old man of faith who, after receiving a promise, said some forty years later: “Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” (Joshua 14:10-12)

It’s a new year and the right time to get a proper perspective on who we are and Whose we are. Both will help us to think and to act in a manner that will honoring and glorifying to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 

[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

You will also decree a thing and it will be established for you; and light will shine on your ways. (Job 22:28)

What a help you are to the weak! How you have saved the arm without strength! (Job 26:2)

Behold, God is mighty but does not despise any; He is mighty in strength of understanding. (Job 36:5)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

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