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IDF Basic Training Comes To an End

mlitary-training Photo by Ilan Hirshowitz

Our soldier successfully completed his basic training and the family back home breathed a sigh of relief as if we were going through the stiff army regimen. He received a great honor from his commanding officer – his worn and sweaty dog tag cover that had been passed down from the officer's CO as well. My son was truly in awe of this honor. To me it was just a piece of cloth, but I had not missed its significance. It seemed to symbolize the fact that he had indeed been selected to be a soldier who may be up to becoming an officer. "Blood, Sweat and Tears," they told him. The blood and sweat on the cover were from the previous owners, while the tears were to be his.

After another two week stint in the field the advanced training started in earnest, which included more mental and physical hardships, training on the latest technology used in the field which cannot even be spoken about, and a slight relaxation of the tough rules and regulations.

My wife and I, being Anglos, realize that we have to improve our Hebrew slang, as a whole new language emerged from our soldier. Terms like pazam (length of time served), regila (leave), shaat tash (relaxation hour), need to be learned and understood.

After an 18 km march, which was mostly done on the run with full kit weighing twenty percent of their body weight, they received their red lapel tags from the company commander. As tradition dictates, the soldiers were given them straight after completing the trek, with a hard punch to the chest. Now they were no longer considered the lowest in the ranks of the army. My son also completed the obstacle course which consisted of a wall, ropes, tires and the usual gruelling obstacles. "Aren't you stiff? I asked him the next day". "No," he said, "just very tired."

The sergeant major ordered them to perform a cleaning-up exercise. "You see those poles over there in the far distance? Go and clean up all the litter and then take a dinner break." My son diligently did his duties for two hours and as he arrived at dinner the sergeant screamed at them, "Where have you been? We have been looking all over for you!" He had evidently forgotten where he had told them to clean up and had half the camp out looking for them.

I realize that nothing connects us more to the Diaspora Jews than having a son in the IDF. Just like a baby is sustained by the umbilical cord connected to its mother, so too is the connection between Israelis and the Diaspora. I see it as balancing scales - on the one side being the Holocaust and on the other the IDF soldiers protecting, nurturing and defending the Israeli state and ongoing rights for all Jews worldwide to live free in their own homeland.

These ramblings of mine happen only when my son has returned to the nest and not when he is on the base, since my feelings flow most easily onto paper when he is safe and close by. Our daily grind is put on hold awaiting his homecoming on the weekend.

Alas, bad news. Due to the multiple rocket attacks in the settlements down south all leave has been cancelled from all IDF bases.

Friday morning, I still have an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind. We are about to leave the house to go shopping when there is an unexpected rap on the door. Our son made it home.

I embrace the young soldier in a long bear hug and breathe in the welcome aroma of gun oil that has been rubbed off onto his uniform. 

 

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

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