Rock of Ages: My First Day As A Lone Soldier In The IDF
Chanukah starts tonight, so I thought I’d take a break from the “Bought And Paid For By The Israel Lobby” meme (more to come) to share a misty, water-colored personal Chanukah story.
My day started with an early-morning walk through a near-empty Machane Yehuda Market, passing by a smattering of shopkeepers who were unlocking their stalls and preparing their wares for the busy day ahead.
As my gait settled into a rhythm on the way to the Jerusalem Beit Hachayal (Soldier’s House), my newly-purchased chimidan (kitbag/backpack for personal items) shifted on my back with each step. Though I wasn’t yet wearing a uniform, I was reminded of the “Do Wah Diddy” scene in Stripes, but I quickly remembered the personal gravity of the moment, and I used the rest of my walk to reflect on the impending realization of a dream.
While the day was truly memorable, it was also a blur. I reminded myself to take mental snapshots as the day unfolded, but for the most part, it was kinda like this:
But not everything was quite so fleeting. Toward the end of that exhausting, exhilarating day, there was one enduring Bakum (Induction Base) experience that I can recall as vividly as if it happened last year. So memorable, in fact, that it was voted Most Likely to be Blogged About 20 Years Later.
After dinner, our motley crew of new recruits was standing outside one of the buildings, waiting to hear a presentation from the commander of one of the special forces. Since the previous group was running a bit behind schedule, our commanders spontaneously decided to pass the time by leading us in a round of Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages). As I stood there on my very first night wearing the uniform of the army of the Jewish State, proudly singing Chanukah songs with my fellow Jewish soldiers, I had myself a merry little Ferlklempt-a-Palooza™ .
During my time in the IDF, I was proud to serve side-by-side with Druze, Bedouin and Circassian soldiers in the defense of the State of Israel and all of its citizens. But this moment was a melodious reminder that after millenia of existing at the whims of Crusaders and Inquisitors, Caliphs and Sultans, despots and dictators, the Jewish people were once again in charge of our own safety and security, in our historic homeland.
It was also a personal reminder that no matter where I served, from the border of Lebanon until the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea until the approach of the Arava, on land, in the air, and on the sea, although I was a Lone Soldier, I wasn’t alone…I was home.