Messianic Soldier Celebrates Faith while Deployed
Senior Airman John Harris is a Messianic Jew who was deployed to the Middle East, but he still wanted to celebrate Sukkot. With the help of the deployed chaplains, including a Rabbi at a completely different base, he was able to get the support he needed.
“I spoke with the Chapel staff here and they put me in contact with a rabbi at (Joint Base Balad),” said Harris…
“It has been an unexpected joy for me to be able to celebrate Sukkot,” said Harris…”My leadership has allowed me time to celebrate. It would have left me with a depressed feeling of loss if I couldn’t have celebrated because it’s important to me.”
Part of Sukkot is building a sukkah, or temporary structure used for eating and even sometimes sleeping during the celebration.
Harris had to figure out how to build a structure that would not violate host-nation sensitivities.
“After discussing with the rabbi, I found a place on the side of the Chapel,” said Harris.
Interestingly, Harris said his personal celebration has opened the door for him to share his faith with others:
“This was a great opportunity to bring things alive off the pages of the Bible,” said Harris. “People have also asked me lots of questions which allowed me to share my religion with them.”
The topic of Messianic Judaism in the military is intriguing itself. For example, the last (and seemingly only) chaplain candidate in that faith withdrew after being told he would be required to wear a Christian cross rather than the Jewish tablets as his chaplain’s insignia.
Harris’ experience demonstrates the resources available to servicemembers in the combat zone, even when they are of a minority faith, and the lengths to which the US military will go to give them the spiritual resources they need to celebrate their faiths. While it took some initiative on his part, his leadership and the chaplains were supportive in his efforts to obtain spiritual resources.
The US military often does an admirable job of protecting the religious freedom of its members, including the ability to publicly celebrate one’s faith.