August 4, 2014
The smell of the salty sea always brings back fond memories. We walked from the Haifa shore into the Naval Base. I identified myself as the father of the soldier; my in-laws as the grandparents of the soldier. We joined the progression of other parents and family members to the bleachers around the concrete field, facing the sea.
Then we heard them. “Smol, Yemin, Smol, Yemin, Smol, Yemin, Smol!” Hundreds of white uniformed soldiers chanted as they marched. There was a power and energy that radiated from these young men and women that reached the entire crowd. The march turned into an energetic run to their positions on the concrete field. They lined up, like…soldiers — backs rim-rod straight, gaze ahead, navy-blue berets at just the right angle. However, the Israeli informality soon ruled over the stoic soldiers as many mothers, fathers and siblings ran to their children in the formation to hug them, kiss them and take pictures with them. Officers called for order, and eventually, after several attempts, the family members returned to the bleachers.
Besides the constant “amod dom,” (stand at attention) and “amod noach” (at ease) commands, there was a progression of the various levels of naval officers as they marched onto the field. The sunset over the Mediterranean and the crashing waves were a gorgeous backdrop to the event. There were short but inspiring speeches by the commanders, there was an emotional reading of Joshua Chapter 1, which is worth reviewing and realizing how impressive it is that a “secular” army should read this at their ceremony.
Then for me, the most powerful part was the swearing-in ceremony. The new soldiers swore their allegiance to the Israel Defense Forces; they swore to give up their lives in defense of their country. They yelled their promise loud and clear. They yelled it all together. Then, each soldier individually came forward and received his rifle and a Tanach (Hebrew Bible). They placed the Tanach on their chest next to their rifle and yelled “Ani Nishba!” (I swear).
We all sang Hatikva (the national anthem). The commanders and officers marched back out. At the end of the ceremony, the commander calls a young woman out of the crowd. One of the new soldiers, runs to her, gets on his knees and offers her an engagement ring, which she lovingly accepted. The soldiers are freed and the stands empty out to meet them.
When we made Aliyah in 1997, I expected that our children would eventually join the IDF. However, to see it happen in such a profound and moving ceremony made my heart burst with pride.