The funeral of Urija Bayer, 20, a German Christian believer who died on Sunday after being critically wounded while fighting for Israel in the Gaza Strip, drew a crowd of thousands of mourners on Tuesday.
The report of his death and the story of the Bayer family has been covered with considerable interest in Israeli media in the preceding days and touched the heart of Israeli society.
While the Bayer family is not Jewish, they chose to bind their fate together with the State of Israel and received approval to become permanent residents.
Their son, Urija, represents the third generation of his family of German Christians who came to Israel to build a home for elderly Holocaust survivors. The nursing home was established out of the family's Christian Zionist faith and the desire to “comfort God’s people,” according to Isaiah 40.
Local Israeli media outlets focused on the Bayer family history, emphasizing that the German family originally moved to Israel to “atone for the crimes of the Nazis.”
Media outlets across Israel’s societal and political spectrum have written about Urija. Even religious news sites, which are not typically friendly to Christians or the Israeli army, admiringly wrote about Urija after his death. With IDF soldiers tragically falling in intense battles in Gaza each day, Urija and his family, and the story of their unimaginable sacrifice, touched a nerve in Israeli society.
Knesset Member Mickey Levy of the Yesh Atid party mentioned Urija in his speech at the parliament, thanking the family for their sacrifice in the name of the nation.
“Urija was the salt of the earth, the citizens of Israel thank you and the Bayer family.”
Ultra-Orthodox news site “Behadrei Haredim” wrote that Urija fell in a “heroic battle,” and noted his Christian faith, adding the words, “long may they live,” referring to his grandparents, who came to Israel in the 1960s.
An article in the right-leaning Israel Hayom newspaper stressed that even though the family was not eligible for Israeli citizenship because they are not Jewish, they have become permanent residents. Urija has siblings who are serving in the Israeli army during the current war in Gaza.
While Urija was required to serve in the IDF because of his permanent resident status, he voluntarily chose to serve in a combat unit. Several other Bayer family members are soldiers and officers in IDF commando units.
Israel's Channel 12 news reported that a friend of the family heard Urija’s father say: “I accept God’s will. I don’t agree with it, I am hurting, but I accept it.”
The left-leaning Haaretz news outlet, in its headline, also stressed that the family came to Israel to “atone” for the Nazi atrocities and noted that it operates the nursing home without any profit and completely voluntarily.
The English-language news site Times of Israel referred to Urija as a “Messianic Jew” and noted that he chose to serve in an IDF combat unit.
Another Christian IDF volunteer spoke about Urija in an interview with The Jerusalem Post: “At the end of the day, as Christians, we have to pay the highest price we can pay for this country. We are willing to give our lives for Israel.” That article emphasized that the Bayer family is not required to serve in the IDF as the family is not eligible for Israeli citizenship. Despite this, both of Urija’s brothers are actively fighting in Gaza at the moment.
Many Israelis also admired Urija for his service in the IDF on social media and at least one referred to the fallen soldier as a hero.
Prof. Kobby Barda from Haifa University praised Urija on the social media platform X for “sacrificing his life in Gaza to protect the land of the Jews, earning him the status of a hero.”
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The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.