April 24, 2014

Saluting Unity

Army boots, green beret, stand tall.       Stiff salute, single file, roll call.

We stood at attention as soldiers raised the Israeli flag, opening the ceremony.

Yesterday was my daughter’s swearing in ceremony (tekes hashba'a) at her base. She, along with 116 girls and three guys, had just completed basic training.

With a son in the army and lone soldiers in my home, visiting bases and attending army ceremonies has become a regular privilege. But I have never been to an IDF base that is mostly dedicated to women. And I have never attended a ceremony celebrating the army achievements of 19-year-old girls.

The girls stood in formation, their black boots splayed. They looked powerful, confident, capable. Some wore skirts and other pants. A few had their hair specially braided for the occasion, while others wore their hair tied up in a bun or a bouncing pony tail.

Some were short, some tall. Some black skinned, some freckled and fair.  It was a union of many nations, many societies and many religious beliefs on one tiny basketball court, on one base and in one neat formation.

They were each called up by their officer and commander, saluted and received a Tanach, the Jewish bible. They ran back in line, glowing, their wide grins filled with pride over their achievements.

I had heard from my daughter that these young women were from all parts of Israel. Some grew up on non-religious kibbutzim, while others were city girls. Many (including my daughter) were religious girls who had just completed studies at a midrasha.

When they had their first Shabbat on base, the religious girls asked the non-religious girls to come to synagogue. Some had never before been into a shul and many had never opened a siddur. They came to synagogue out of curiosity and respect for their new religious roommates and friends.

The girls prayed, they sang and they danced.  They helped their friends daven and pulled them into their swinging, stomping circle. They were one. My daughter said it was one of the most meaningful Shabbats she has ever experienced.

And when the base commander spoke to the parents, kippa on his head, officer insignia on his shoulders, he spoke about this time being significant in the Jewish calendar for working on perfection. He reminded us, religious and non-religious alike, that although we may be from different backgrounds, together we can create a synergy.

Yesterday the girls swore to serve their country with dedication and devotion. They had a sparkle in their eyes, a jump to their step. They had developed a respect of one anothers differences and a love of unity. This is the beauty of the Israeli army.

This is tikkun.

As Jews and Israelis, this is our strength and these girls represent our future. 

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