Yesterday, I reached the first of many milestones in my army service: my tekes hashbaa, the ceremony in which soldiers who have completed basic training swear allegiance to the country and the army in which they serve.
It’s a very meaningful ceremony.
The fledgling soldiers repeat the oath in unison, afterwards yelling out as loud as they can: אני נשבע! (I swear).
After that, one by one, each soldier is given a gun and a Tanach (Hebrew bible)(or a New Testament if they so prefer) and they proclaim again ״אני נשבע!״.
Why is it like this? The bible symbolizes our history that has brought us to this point. The rifle symbolizes that we must defend ourselves from those who would see us destroyed. Together, they represent the Israeli soldier: moral, proud of their heritage, and prepared to give their all to protect the land and it’s people.
The oath itself goes like this:
“הנני נשבע(ת) ומתחייב(ת) בהן צדקי לשמור אמונים למדינת ישראל לחוקיה ולשלטונותיה המוסמכים, לקבל על עצמי ללא תנאי וללא סייג עול משמעתו של צבא הגנה לישראל, לציית לכל הפקודות וההוראות הניתנות על ידי המפקדים המוסמכים ולהקדיש את כל כוחותיי ואף להקריב את חיי להגנת המולדת ולחירות ישראל.”
“I swear and commit to maintain allegiance to the State of Israel, its laws, and its authorities, to accept upon myself unconditionally the discipline of the Israel Defense Forces, to obey all the orders and instructions given by authorized commanders, and to devote all my energies, and even sacrifice my life, for the protection of the homeland and the liberty of Israel.”
As an immigrant to Israel, I chose this path; it was not chosen for me. For many, this oath is a starting point. For others, it’s simply another day. For me, it’s another step on the path I started almost a year ago – to serve my nation and do my part.
Currently, I’m part of a course for new Olim to help them improve their Hebrew. After we finish the course, we are asked for our position of preference and placed according to abilities and what the army needs at that point. It’s a little interesting to see how my mentality has become a bit more relaxed in the little time since I’ve drafted. I’ve stopped worrying about where I’ll end up being placed, and as I’ve heard many times from many people: “yihi’eh b’seder” (it will be okay).
The army designs training to get you used to army life as fast as possible. You get used to being given time to complete tasks, not being in control of your schedule, sleeping in a room with 10 or more people, and even babysitting a water bottle. (Silly I know, but there’s a story and a reason behind that.)
And after finishing all that training, when we’ve all been sufficiently prepared, once we know what it means to serve in the IDF, we take the oath. The same oath that the soldiers of the IDF have been taking since 1948.
My swearing in ceremony was not at the Kotel, or Masada, or anyplace like that. My ceremony took place in the old British prison in Akko where many members of the Jewish underground were held prisoner for crimes committed against the British.
At first I wondered why it was being held there but it was made clear to me exactly why.
These underground members were new immigrants for the most part. They left behind family, friends, and their old lives. They came to fight for their people and to fight for what they believed in.
And to some extent, so did we.