The Soldiers Oath

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.

Mission: Israel!

So there is less than a week left until my flight and I am excited beyond words! I have almost all the packing done; all I need to do is wait for the flight. In the last month or so the amount of support I’ve received from friends, family, and various assorted people has been amazing. The amount of advice I’ve been given is staggering.

Just a small piece of advice: if you are making aliyah, make sure you take plenty of time to make some good memories here before you go. Besides passing the time, it’s great to leave on a happy note. Personally, I’ve started my goodbyes already and yes, it’s hard. To say goodbye to almost everyone you know and love is a big deal. Make the most of it.

So, with only a few days left as a “chutznik” (somebody who lives outside Israel) I am making memories, having fun and possibly even enjoying a shenanigan or two. Nefesh b’Nefesh asked me to make a small clip to say what I’ll be doing, here’s what I submitted:

Aside from me making aliyah, there are many many many more like me who are making this journey together with me. Each of us has our own story behind what we are doing, yet we all arrived at the same conclusion. THIS IS WHERE WE BELONG! And that in itself is mind blowing.

Less than six days left. This chapter of my life is over, and another, hopefully more exciting one is about to begin…..

Think Israel in NYC

Me with the other people at the Army info session at the Think Israel event. (Photo Credit Shahar Azran for Nefesh B’Nefesh)

When you have an important decision to make, it’s important to be well informed. Now, making aliyah is probably going to be the most difficult and important decision of my life. Therefore, I feel like I should probably be as well informed as I can be.

This past Sunday, my mother and I went to the Think Israel event in the Federation UJA building in Manhattan. They had booths for many different organizations and groups all geared toward assisting people with their aliyah process. While I was there, I spoke to people from some of the organizations to try and find the one that best fit me. That program turned out to be the Tzofim Garin Tzabar program, which takes a group of “crazy” young adults (like me!!!!) and helps them go through the aliyah process as a group. This group of young’uns make aliyah together, they go to kibbutz together, they attend an ulpan program (Hebrew crash course) together, and after 3 months on kibbutz they get their Tzav Rishon (first draft to the army).

When I join the army, I will be considered a Chayal Boded  – a lone soldier:  someone with no immediate family in Israel who volunteers to join Tzahal. At the Think Israel event, there was a presentation given by Adina Bennett, Nefesh B’Nefesh, Lieutenant Colonel Yossi Matzliach, Israeli Defense Force, and Einav Zamir, Director of the Tzofim Garin Tzabar program. They each explained the various functions that their respective departments served , what we can expect as olim, the various benefits a Chayal Boded receives, and how the entire process works. Aliyah for dummies. Who knew?!

Mrs. Bennett repeatedly pointed out the fact that the Lone Soldier program needs a new name, because Israel’s soldiers are never alone. I want to add to that.  Not only are there many people ready, able, and willing to help the chayalim along the way, there is also the Almighty guarding and protecting those that protect His people from harm.