Thursday, 30 September 2010

Sof Maslool

My uniform is now finally complete, after I received the tzanchanim 'sicat lohem' (fighter's pin) at a ceremony, yesterday morning. This means that I have finished my year long (actually 10 month long) training period - the maslool, and am now considered a fighter in the army, despite the fact that, if called on, I would have been eligible to fight a couple of months ago.

I had quite an annoying week up until Tuesday evening, that's when all the celebrations started. I had to close the shabbat, and then was made to stay at on base for a further two days. Although I actually had quite a relaxed time, I ended up missing out on the army sports day, the tzanchanim brigade's annual show and then, most importantly, the "masa aliyah l'pluga". As I've mentioned previously, I am part of the newest platoon that has joined a particular company (the name of mine is mivtsayit) in battalion 101, however, to be accepted into the company by those already in it, there is a kind-of ritual masa. Nothing extreme, a mere 6km in comparison to the colossal masa kumta, but what is special about it, is how at the end of the masa the whole company gathers to celebrate the newcomers, by throwing smoke grenades and singing mivtsayit-related songs. I was disappointed to miss this, especially as I live for the experiences that one goes through in the army, but that's just the way it goes sometimes and I feel lucky to have been there for most of the important things during the maslool. Following the masa, everyone was given the gun strap, watch cover and dogatags holder of the 'mivtsayit', which I can now proudly display on my day-to-day uniform...

My gun strap, watch cover and dogtags holder all sporting the sign of my new company - Mivtsayit 101.

On tuesday night, the night before the 'tekes' (ceremony), my previous company had a party to celebrate our 'sof maslool' (end of journey - the journey being our training period, and one hell of a journey it was). Everyone who was once in the company, (the company being draftees from 101, November '09), came back; from old commanders to fellow soldiers who have gone to commanders' course themselves. It was an enjoyable reunion and we reminisced about all we have gone through during the past 10 months. We also received gifts for finishing the maslool, both through the donations we had raised ourselves and money given by the extremely wealthy paratroopers' brigade itself. It was an extravagant array of gifts; from t-shirts, a fleece and a big rucksack, to a personalised plaque, a wallet and a book (very much in the style of an end-of-school yearbook), and on everything is printed "Sof Maslool, 101, Nov' 09". As you can tell, it is a big deal, a lot like finishing school; where you leave your friends, teachers and memories, and then move on to another place. The evening was very special and a perfect way to mark the end of an era.

All the gifts that we received for 'Sof Maslool'.

So it came to the day of my tekes sof maslool, the fourth and final of all the ceremonies I have had; from the "hashba'a" (swearing-in) at the kotel, receiving my wings at the jump school and, most recently, getting my red kumta (beret), which I still consider one of the best days of my life. Yesterday's tekes was of a similar style to most of the other ceremonies, but instead of getting wings or a beret, we received our fairly small (!) fighter's pin. The highlight of the day by far, was when we actually had the pin placed on our uniform, but for me personally, it was even more fantastic than anyone else in the platoon. This was because my M*M (platoon commander - an officer in the army), someone who has been with me my whole service until now and who I've talked about, admired and followed diligently for 10 long months, gave me his personal pin!!! It was a truly special moment. In front of the whole platoon; he called me out, placed the pin on my uniform, punched me on the arm and said how "there was only one person who he wanted to give it to". It is a massive honour, not just because of how much I've loved this guy, but also because there is a huge amount of accolade in receiving the fighters' pin from an officer in tzanchanim. I thank him so much for this amazing gesture and it definitely was the final cherry to top the most incredible maslool and army service that I've had so far.

That memorable moment was caught on camera! My platoon commander giving me his own fighters' pin.

The pin itself, up close.

It was a wonderful way to end a long, hard but rewarding period of the army and I know I can look back on my maslool with memories of hysterical moments with friends, imposible physical and mental challenges and remarkable achivements and honours, like the one yesterday. As one era ends, another one begins and that is exactly what I'll be writing about in the next blog...

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