JERUSALEM, Israel -- On Friday morning, a family in Herzliya learned their son had been killed hours after Israel's ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. It's news every family hopes never to hear. Yet in this country, many have.
Every Israeli mother and father knows the dangers soldiers face in such an operation. And they also know the government did not make the decision to send troops into the area lightly.
Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, a platoon commander in the IDF's Nahal Brigade, is the first soldier to be killed in this phase of Operation Protective Edge, launched late Thursday night.
Israel is at war with an enemy intent on its destruction and its sons and daughters know they're tasked with defending their homes, families, friends and neighbors from deadly rocket attacks.
It's an awesome responsibility for young men and women, who begin their compulsory military service following high school graduation. Yet despite the inherent danger, it's one they embrace with courage and conviction, with many new recruits requesting to serve in combat units.
In the tiny Jewish state, there's a tangible feeling that every soldier is like your own child. When troops do well, the whole nation rejoices. When a soldier is killed, the nation mourns together, many asking God to comfort family and friends.
When Israel is at war, God's promises bear upon the nation in a deeper way. The battlefield has a way of drawing people to prayer, often from the Book of Psalms, where there's no lack of solace and encouragement for the nation of Israel. Many soldiers carry a pocket Book of Psalms with them into battle and most pray themselves.
While it's important to speak out against the lopsided reporting equating Israel's defense of its civilian population with the terror group's goals and purposes, it's at least as important to pray.
Psalm 124 says without God, Israel's enemies would "have swallowed us alive" and ends with declaring Israel's help "is in the name of the Lord."
"If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say, if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive when their wrath was kindled against us…Blessed be the Lord who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers. The snare is broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 124:1-3; 6-8)
And Psalm 27 admonishes the soldiers and their families not to fear.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident."
Since taking control of the Gaza Strip in a bloody military coup in June 2007, Hamas has devoted itself to building the terror infrastructure with its maze of underground tunnels, weapons manufacturing and storage facilities and explosives laboratories. The jihadists have no qualms about using the civilian population as human shields while they stow away underground.
But God's Word stands forever so we can believe His promises even during war.
"No weapon formed against you shall prosper. And every tongue that rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their righteousness is from Me," says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17)