Almost everyone in Israel has a friend or family member in the army. In my case, the one to whom I'm closest is my fiance's brother. This morning found us at Latrun watching the ceremony ending his Sergeant's course. I found myself, as always at such ceremonies, comparing it, rather unfavourably with the ceremonial aspect of the British army where drill and marching is a speciality. I well remember at the start of my own sergeant's course being shown "A few good men" on video. The film begins with a demonstration of marching and spinning of rifles, complete with shined shoes and polished buttons. We sat there stunned, hoping that there was a point to the film.
The Israeli army is not used to standing on ceremony and there is a good reason behind this; the army takes young boys away from their homes for precisely 3 years. There is no messing about with unnecessary aspects of training - the new draftee is straight down to the required work to make him a proficient combat soldier as quickly as possible. There is certainly no time to spend learning how to make boots shine so that you can see your face in them. The IDF is there out of neccessity. The moment that there is time to teach marching will be a happy day for us all - in the meantime, there are more pressing issues to take care of like protecting our families, mere kilometres away.
As is traditional with such ceremonies, we went with enough food to feed not just Yoni, but also the rest of his unit. Clearly, everyone elses' parents had done precisely the same thing - a very Jewish way of doing things - get the ceremonial stuff over, then eat...
I went through the army as a lone soldier (my family is still based abroad). My ceremonies were held at a base in the South and there wasn't anyone there cheering me on. When everyone around you is surrounded by family and friends it is easy to feel incredibly lonely. I don't want any of my nearest and dearest to feel the same.