Jun 1, 2007

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Jerusalem: The Kotel: IDF Swearing In Ceremony

My brother is a volunteer soldier, some might say "mercenary" in the Israeli army. He began his training not too long ago and he has now completed the first level of basic training. This evening was scheduled to be his "swearing in" ceremony.

We got the invitation from the army last week. My brother has the status of a "lone soldier" because his family (read: parents) is in the United States. So, we are his reps to the army, and we get the invites that normally go to parents.

The invitation said what time to come and where it would be. What was really cool was that it said for people who cannot make it, the ceremony would be broadcast live and in full video/audio at the Kotel Kam (if you go there now, you can go to Today at the kotel and select events and see a fe pictures from the ceremony).

The ceremony would take place at the Kotel. The Kotel, being the last remnant from the Temples, is host to many of these ceremonies. It, I think, is meant to give these young men and women a taste and a feel of there being part of history and part of a Jewish state and that is what they will be spending there next few years defending.

We get to the Old City of Jerusalem. We are running late because traffic is so bad. So many people are flooding the Old City to get to the event, that what is normally a 5 minute drive through the Old City and then a few minutes to look for parking, took about 45 minutes. I dropped my family off at the entrance to the kotel and then went to park. I had to drive all the way back to the other side of the Old City and park outside of Jaffa Gate. Everything else was full.

I ran in to the Old city and decided to take the shortcut through the Arab shuk to save a few minutes of detouring through the Jewish Quarter. I made it down to the Kotel pretty quickly and found the place jam-packed.

The ceremony is just getting ready to start. I found my family and then found my brother among all the soldiers. We said hi, he told me where he thought I should stand for the best view, relative to where his unit would be standing in formation. It was pretty packed everywhere and only the first row of people really had a decent view.

We found a spot and settled in. Our spot was right behind the Army Glee Club! This army choir was pretty good! All the songs they song were Jewish/religious themed songs (see below for a couple of examples). The best part was when the electricity blew just as they were starting a song. All of the sudden - no lights, no microphones, no music (at least no electric keyboard), and whatever else they had going. It took a moment as everyone was caught off gaurd, but the Glee Club composed themselves pretty quickly and got going with a song and a saxophone to save the day until a they got the electricity up a few minutes later...

They went through a few formations, some generals and other army commanders spoke. I could not really hear much because the speakers were in front of us facing away and the sound was dulled and a lot of people were making noise, but I picked up snippets from the speeches. One commander was blessing them that they should be strongafter quoting from the Book of Joshua the section where power was transferred to Joshua after Moshe's death and the people confirmed their support for him and blessed him with strength. Another commander spoke of the significance of being at the spot with the remnants of the Temple...

Then the swearung in took place. The unit commanders would call out (in Hebrew), "Do you swear?" and the unit would scream out in unison "We swear, We swear, We Swear!!!". They went through all the units. Then each individual stepped forward to his commander and picked up a gun (M16) and a Tanakh, held them together to his chest, saluted and stepped back.

After some more songs and Hatikvah, the ceremony was over. Some soldiers tossed their kumtahs (berets) in the air and people mingled.


  1. "Then each individual stepped forward to his commander and picked up a gun (M16) and a Tanakh, held them together to his chest..."

    Nice that they get a copy of the Tanakh. But it would be really cool if each got a copy of the Talmud.
    Maybe in the special forces ?

  2. why the talmud?

    I don't get the point of the comment/ (joke?)

    a tanakh is much more apropo.

  3. I was on the other side for my son's swearing in. As fate would have it, one minute before he picked his arm and tanach, the electricity went out.
    BTW, the religious soldiers didn't swear like the others (saying "ani nishba"), but proclaim (saying "ani matshir").

  4. that is very cool, esther... what unit is your son in? 931? 933?


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