Yom Kippur in Afghanistan

The Jewish Journal has an article about Captain Nathan Brooks, a 33-year-old, single Orthodox Jew from Los Angeles. While the article is titled “Yom Kippur in Afghanistan”, it really focuses on the daily life and some of the challenges an Orthodox Jew like Brooks faces in a place like Afghanistan.

In terms of fasting, Brooks said that although he would be unable to perform his duties if he did not eat or drink on fast days such as Yom Kippur or Tisha b’Av, he makes sure to restrict himself to water and bland foods.

“As a pilot, particularly in the heat of Kandahar [where he was previously stationed] for Tisha b’Av, it was maybe 114 degrees, and I still had to perform and function as a soldier,” he said. “When you are an officer in charge, sometimes the needs of your unit and your troops have to come before your own personal needs.”

It’s not all about giving things up though. There are a number of things Brooks holds onto and bring him great joy and meaning on his deployment.

Following his daily exercise at Bagram Airfield, Brooks does two things that he said have most helped him feel connected to God since he deployed for Afghanistan in April — he wraps tefillin and davens Shacharit, the morning prayer service.

While Brooks might be in one of the most challenging places to be observant, he is clearly a motivated soldier and seems happy to make the sacrifice for his country and fellow soldiers.

Despite all the challenges involved with being an observant Jew in the military — especially when serving abroad — Brooks believes it’s all worth it.

“I think it’s really important that we have ourselves represented in the military,” he said. “As soldiers, we have a lot to give.”

Read the full article at the Jewish Journal.