Sergeant-Major (Sgt.-Maj.) Urija Bayer was a Christian combat soldier in the IDF who lost his life in battle on Sunday. He was proud to serve in the IDF and defend Israel.
IDF Sgt.-Maj. Urija Bayer succumbed to his wounds on Sunday after being seriously injured in battle in the southern Gaza Strip on December 14, the IDF reported. Bayer, 20, from Ma’alot-Tarshiha, was a member of the Maglan Special Forces unit of the Nahal Brigade and a German Evangelical Christian who chose to volunteer in the army. His grandparents moved to Israel to help support Holocaust survivors.
“He always wanted to be a combat soldier,” a fellow Evangelical IDF volunteer told The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity. “He was a good combat soldier, focused on defending the State of Israel. He was a good person, too. Always smiling.”
Proud to defend Israel
He said that he was proud to be a volunteer – being himself in combat – and proud of his friend.
“At the end of the day, as Christians, we have to pay the highest price we can pay for this country,” he said. “We are willing to give our lives for Israel.”
Bayer was the son of Nelli and Gideon Bayer, who run Zedakah. This German-Christian charity organization funds and runs the Bet Eliezer nursing home for Holocaust survivors in the Western Galilee city of Ma’alot.
His grandparents, Hans and Crystal Bayer, came to Israel in the late 1960s and opened the Beth El guest house in Shavei Zion – a hotel that offered free stays for Holocaust survivors and their families.
President and Founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, is seen with IDF soldiers; the Fellowship is heavily invested in supporting its lone soldiers
Bet Eliezer is run entirely by Christian volunteers from Europe, who live in the facility with the residents. The Bayer family was originally from the Black Forest region of Germany, near Stuttgart.
Urija and his siblings – Rachel, Odelia, Zuriel, and Eliaw – were all born in Israel. Despite being Gentiles and not eligible for citizenship, all the family members volunteered to serve in the IDF in combat roles. Two of Urija’s brothers are fighting in Gaza now.
According to Juergen Buehler, president of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem and also a German Christian, there are around 100 Evangelical Christian volunteers in the Israeli army, including two of his sons.
“Most of these children were born here. They live here. Israel is their home,” Buehler told the Post. “They all grew up in Zionist households, and they believe in the case for the State of Israel. They feel they are fighting for the right thing now.”
He said that Christian soldiers have, by and large, been “warmly received” by the IDF, who see their volunteering as a “blessing for Israel.”
For some German Christians, serving Israel is their way of making amends for the sins of their ancestors.
Buehler said that the Bayer family witnessed the atrocities of Germany against the Jewish people and wanted to do good, so they came to Israel. Buehler’s father served in World War II and was rescued and saved by a Jewish doctor in a Russian prison camp. He grew up knowing “there is a special relationship between our family and the Jewish people.”
Bayer is the third soldier from the city of Ma’alot to die in this war. In addition, a Ma’alot resident was murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Re’im music festival.
This article was originally published on JPost.com by Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, deputy CEO - Strategy & Innovation for the Jerusalem Post Group.