Friday, September 19, 2014

Taking the Pledge

Last night, our closest friends invited us to come to their son’s swearing in ceremony for the Israeli army. He joined in July, becoming part of an elite unit within Tzanchanim (paratroopers). The swearing in ceremony for the paratroopers is always at the Kotel (Western Wall) and it proved to be an incredibly moving night. We were here a few years ago for our Chayal Boded (Lone Soldier), Jeff. That time, we were standing as part of the crowd in the Kotel plaza, and I didn’t see much of what was going on. This time, we were on one of the rooftops overlooking the Kotel, so I had a better feeling for the ceremony as it unfolded.

And what a ceremony it was. The soldiers march in, there are speeches and memorials, a few songs and explanations. Then, each soldier is individually handed his gun, but what I hadn’t caught in action with Jeff is that they are also given a Tanach which is placed inside their shirts, over their hearts. It may be a bit hard to see in this video, but watch carefully as a soldier comes up, gets his Tanach, and then gets his gun.


Can we pause here for a minute? Yes, many of you are saying, “Well, yeah. We all know that they are given a Tanach and a gun.” And others of you are saying, “So what’s the big deal?” But to me – this is a big deal. Native Israelis and those who have lived here for a long time are often surprised by the things that strike me in daily life here. But I had never witnessed this moment in action, watching as they are given a Tanach with their gun. Whether the soldiers are religious or not, whether they read the Tanach or have rarely opened one, they are being given the message that Gd is with them. BUT that they still need to take action. This is what we live by. Gd is on your side, Gd is right by your heart watching you; but you don’t sit idly by and just trust that all will be ok. You build an army, you join it and you take up arms when necessary.

The Kotel plaza filled with Tzanchanim and their families.

The evening was particularly powerful, I thought, since the Tzanchanim paid such a heavy price in our recent war with Gaza this summer. These boys, who yelled their allegiance to the IDF and the State of Israel last night, realize extremely poignantly where they are headed. They know that their brothers recently gave up their lives for our country – and that they are standing there in their stead, ready to be next in line to defend our Nation and our People.

When we sang Hatikva, thousands of people strong, I was also struck by the incredible imagery through time. The paratroopers liberated the Kotel – they broke through the blockade of the Old City in 1967 and made their way through the winding streets of the Old City to blow the shofar at the Kotel. 
Famous picture taken minutes after the soldiers got to the Kotel.
It was a dream of our people to come back. It was our dream to stand by the Kotel, to remember the Beit Hamikdash and to return to our Holy City. Fast forward two thousand years…or 47 years as you will…and here are the newest recruits of the same regime. Standing at the liberated Kotel singing our song, with their Tanach over their hearts and their guns strapped over their shoulders.

Yonatan right before the ceremony with his sister, Avital.

Eliav stayed up until 11 to be there with Yonatan!

I am honored beyond words to watch Yonatan join this elite group. I am honored beyond words to have the privilege of living out the modern miracle that is the State of Israel today – and the Army that supports it.


May Yonatan, and all those with him, find protection and strength as they keep us safe day and night and help us to continue living out the dream of our people – to live in our Homeland as a free and strong Nation of Jews.

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