‘Soldier Mom’ of the Israeli Defense Force – My Son’s First Milestone Ceremony

Son, sometime after you were drafted, during your basic training, we received the invitation for your swearing in ceremony.  As I noted the date and time in my calendar, I happily thought to myself, “Yay! This is going to be a serious photo-op occasion!”
As Serendipity, (which, as you know, is often G-d’s secular name), would have it your swearing in ceremony was to take place at a location that our entire family holds especially dear.  Since I have visited this place on many occasions I was already imagining possible angles for potential shots and thinking about borrowing a video camera so that afterwards I could upload a video of your ceremony onto “YouTube”!  I was just primed to be like all of the other proud parents of IDF soldiers with YouTube video, Picasa and Facebook albums all showing my son’s first milestone ceremony.  Then you came home on furlough and shared with me that unlike other units of the IDF your unit isn’t fond of photography!  I saw your little smirk of a smile and calmly responded to you: “Don’t worry, I listened very carefully when you shared the rules and regulations limiting photography. You have my word I won’t break any of them.  I’ll bend them a bit that’s all!”  Shaking your head at me you made your way into your room quietly closing the door.  I heard your exhausted boots as they clunked down on the floor in your room and I decided to try and be reasonable about this.
Being reasonable about not writing a blog piece and not sharing photographs has turned out to be difficult for me.  I am an immigrant to Israel, (and immigrant parents tend more than Sabra parents to pedantically follow their children’s army related rules), but I am way more a “real Israeli Ima Chayal” (Soldier Mom).  Sorry son, I immediately began scheming my way around your unit’s lack of fondness for publicly shared blog items and photographs.
Finally your big day arrived!  Looking back at it now, I’m thinking, since those family members who came to the ceremony were more excited than you were, may-be it was our big day?  At any rate, we all happily drove down together with a very full picnic basket for after the ceremony securely tucked into the trunk.  We arrived at the designated location on the early side.  Once we found front row seats we took turns going around to greet other parents we either know or are nodding-familiar with from your draft day.  Naturally with three of us as designated photographers we didn’t miss a single angle we took photographs of everything!  No worries boyo, none of those photographs will be posted here.
As I prepared to take a photo of the IDF Oath/Affirmation you and your unit were about to take I stood for a long while reading it and translating it to myself into English.  The translated oath/affirmation which you, your unit’s members and every single IDF soldier makes in Hebrew reads in English:
 “I swear, affirm and promise upon my word of honor to be faithful to the State of Israel, to her laws, and to her authorized institutions:
To unconditionally take upon myself the yoke of Israel Defense Force discipline
To obey all orders and commands given by authorized officers
To dedicate all of my strength even unto sacrificing my life for the defense of the Homeland and the freedom of Israel” 


Son, I know you and you know me, so I know that it is redundant to tell you that when I read that last line I looked up into the heavens tears streaming down my face and actually prayed/begged before the Throne of He Who Keeps the IDF at His Right Hand to keep you safely tucked under His Mighty Wing and away from that last line of the IDF Oath/Affirmation.
While you and your unit were finishing up your last pre-ceremony drill, I walked about taking more photographs.  I was drawn to the tables stacked with books and weapons.  Wondering what the books were I came up to the tables for a closer look and to take yet another photograph.  As I read the books’ bindings I understood that I was looking at a Tower of our Tanach (The Hebrew Bible) surrounded by weapons.  A lightening bolt of realization later I thought to myself: “Of course, each soldier receives his/her own copy of the Tanach and his/her weapon at the swearing in ceremony. This is, after all, the army of the Jewish State!” Suddenly I felt quite a bit calmer because I was certain that G-d had just given His answer to the prayer I had sent Him a few minutes before.

Then it was time for the ceremony to actually begin, after the marching, the raising of our flag, the memorial segment for the fallen of your unit, and the speeches from your commanding officers, we listened as each soldier’s name was called and each in his/her turn came up to receive their Tanach and their weapon.  Finally your name was called and just like all the other families before us had done we whooped/cheered out to you.  Then as one all of you took the IDF Oath/Affirmation.  More speeches, more marching, and finally the singing of our national anthem “HaTikva” (“The Hope”).  A bit of waiting, (do not even think that I didn’t notice that when you saw me looking over at you, you nearly broke formation, fortunately for you, you held back and stayed in place!), and finally your commanding officers released all of you soldiers to us so that we could have our picnic lunches together before you went back to your base and we went home.  These final two photographs, one of you with your paternal grandfather and one of you with me strictly keep to the photography rules of your unit and still allow me your very loving soldier mom to proudly show you off!  Mazal Tov my IDF Soldier Son! So proud of you!  Mazal Tov!

(The first three photographs are by Isa David-Ben-Rafael, the last one is by Jay Berman.  All photographs for this blog post are owned by IsraeLightly)


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