Saturday, 10 July 2010

Tekes Kumta

Just a couple of hours after we finished the masa, the tekes took place where we received our red berets and officially became part of the Paratroopers' family. I was so excited for the tekes (ceremony), partly because of the beret but also because I knew that waiting for me at the ceremony would be my garin rakaz (organiser of my garin), who I am very close to, my host family and some of my good friends from the garin. It was going to be one of those days to remember, but it turned out to be something a million times better and more special. I could tell you what happened, but it's better to just show you because this is exactly how I felt...

Go to this link, turn up the volume and be ready from the start of the video -

A parents' love for their child is something universal and strong in each and every family, but for my mummy and daddy to surprise me at my tekes kumta was, for me, the greatest sign of love and is the most wonderful thing they have ever done for me, and they have done a lot. To keep this incredible surprise secret from me was incredible; but for my mum, to bring out my daddy to Israel in the heat of the summer is even more astonishing. Everyone was in on the secret; from my rakaz and all my friends in the garin, to all my commanders in the army. As you can see in the video, I had no idea whatsoever, so to see my parents at my beret ceremony, after walking 78km, was something beyond emotions. My mum had spoken to my rakaz, who then organised it with my platoon commander, a personal hero of mine, who you see in the video comforting me. Every time I watch the video it reminds me of that feeling I had when seeing my parents from a distance, I just feel so very priveleged to have such amazing parents and I love them the whole world.

Red beret ceremony.

After the shock of the surprise passed, to be honest I am still in shock a little bit, the ceremony took place and I saw all the people who had come to see me. It was just one of those perfect days, one of the best of my young life. Everyone who came for me was there to see me get my red beret at the tekes, which was a really nice ceremony even though most of us were struggling to stay standing on our destroyed legs. So in front of everyone, my green beret was taken off my head by my 'mefaked samal' and the red beret placed on my head by my platoon commander, my two favourite people in the army! That was it. Eight months of intensive training, kilometres upon kilometres of walking with mountains of kilograms on my back, all for a red beret? Was it all worth it? Yeah, of course it was, to have the tzanchanim kumta on my shoulder now is the sign to show I am a fully flegded IDF combat soldier, ready to help defend the people of this country.

My company com-
mander placing the red beret on my head.

It was a breathless day, as I said, I was in total shock from everything; the surprise of my parents, the fact that I'd finished the masa and also I just couldn't believe how I been in Israel and the army for such a long time and how much I have achieved in that time. I was lucky enough to be able to spend an extended weekend with my parents after the tekes in Tel Aviv. It was a special couple of days, especially since I was able to be with my parents for their anniversary. I still can't believe they came out to see me and just want to thank them for being the best parents in the world.

With my parents at the ceremony.

The story of my parents coming to surprise me at my tekes kumta got around quickly and by the end of the ceremony someone, who is responsible for all lone soldiers in the army, was in contact with the media. By the end of the day my parents and I had already been interviewed and photographed by 'Yediot Ahronot', the main daily newspaper in Israel. A few days later, we were amazed to see a full page article in the newspaper about our story, plus, I spoke on 'Galgalatz' (the top radio station in Israel) for around five minutes with some famous presenter. Suddenly, I've become a bit of celebrity and I got people coming up to me on the train telling me that they had seen me in the paper. Also, in the article it said how I lived in Ortal, which is quite a big deal for this small kibbutz from the northern Golan Heights. So, I was the talk of the town here in Ortal and, the cutest thing, is how all the little kids here are innocently asking me if my dad is ok, after they read about him in the article. It's nice how my story is getting relatively known; through these articles, the blog and by word of mouth, but my story is also the story of the hundreds of young lone soldiers who make aliyah and join the army. Leaving your family and giving to the army is an amazing sacrifice and I feel honoured to be amongst those who have done it, because there are loads of really amazing people with incredible stories. However, as all my friends will confirm, I do enjoy the spotlight!!!

The newspaper article about my parents coming to surprise me at the tekes kumta. The title is translated as "The son's journey, the father's journey".

I hope I have written well enough to explain what an amazing weekend it was and how the day of the tekes was truly one of the best days of my life. There is more news to tell regarding what I'm doing now, what I will be doing in the next few months and some great news about coming back to London for a visit, but I'll tell you about that in the next blog next week. By the way, I forgot to say in the last blog how my old commander gave me his kumta (a usual tradition in the army), which he received from his company commander. So, now I have an old kumta, which is a really cool thing in the army. Wow, I can't believe I've finished training and have got a red kumta, time flies when you're having fun (!).

Throwing the berets in the air at the end of the tekes.

Some more pictures from the ceremony...


  1. Hi Sam, I hope all is well and that you had a lovely shabbat recuperating and enjoying yourself and celebrating with your beloved parents. Mazal tov on their anniversary!

    I know you don't know me, but I feel that I have been travelling with you on this journey (masa, shall we call it ;-)) for the last many months and I just want to say how happy I am and proud of you of all the amazing things you have achieved.

    Like you said, you have left the comforts of home and family and have becoming a lone soldier, in order to carry out your dream in Israel (however difficult it may sometimes get). Mazal tov ve kol hakavod!!!

    I am hopefully having my liskat giyus in march and I hope to go to nachal and I too will be a lone soldier and even though I hopefully may be going to a different unit to the one you are in, I just want to say that I am so proud and happy to follow in the footsteps of an excellent and decent person (and of course a prime example of a lone soldier), like yourself.

    It has been a pleasure following your israeli/army life and I look forward to reading many more of your excellent blogs.

    Tishmor al atsmecha,

    R xxx

  2. Sam, I have been following your story for months now. You're an inspiration, and you're living my dream. I read your story and hope that one day in the near future I will be in your shoes. Mazal tov on the kumta, you deserve it!
    I really love reading this blog and look forward to every Saturday!
    Good luck and enjoy the weekend with your parents!

  3. Sam, my son is also a lone soldier far from home who hopes and yearns to wear the red beret one day soon. I was so moved by your poignant story--your surprise reunion with your parents--I hope you don't mind if I consider you my son also!

    May G-d protect you and all our brave chayalim..and of course, Am Yisrael.


  4. Hi Sam,
    I know your blog is from years ago but I have been working my way through every single post over the past two weeks. I am making aliyah in 7 weeks and will be drafted in May or June, hopefully to be a choveshet, after I finish ulpan. I want to know everything about what to expect so I googled aliyah blogs and came across yours. It has been extraordinary to read what you have done, coming from almost no Hebrew to joining Tzanchanim and passing two gibbushim, only one of which counted. But when I watched that video of your parents showing up to your kumta ceremony I started to cry. You see, I am from the US, and Tennessee at that (Southeast). Knowing how emotional it was for you to see your parents at your tekes kumta even though you did see them a few times since your aliyah, I am torn. It just hit me that my parents won't be able to come for pesach or my tekes kumta. I know I won't change my mind about aliyah, but how do you deal with it on a regular basis? Before you knew they were coming, how were you dealing with them not being there? I know this is a lot to ask, but I was hoping you might give me some advice or words of encouragement.