Yesterday was Avishai's "Tekas Kumpta" -- the ceremony marking the end of his training. The ceremony was set for 1:00p.m., and was to come at the end of the soldiers' "massa kumpta", their last hike of basic training.
I was actually not quite sure what a "kumpta" is. At first, I understood it to be the beret that the soldiers wear, different colors for different units. Then, I heard about the soldiers receiving their "fighters' pin" and thought that THAT's what it was, the pin. Then, Avishai started talking about the badge in the middle of the beret, and I thought that THAT's what it was. And at some point, so much of the culture of having a son in the army is so strange and beyond my realm that I try not to ask too many stupid questions, and often go on blithly misunderstanding what is happening in my child's life.
In this case though, all I had to do was to wait for the tekas (ceremony), and my curiosity would be satisfied, and in fact, when the "kumptas" were handed out, it became clear that the kumpta is, in fact, the beret (brown for Avishai's Golani unit).
At the last swearing in ceremony, held 3 months ago at Avishai's base, the soldiers were all dressed in their dress uniforms, and when the commander called out "stand straight" or "at ease", you could hear the soldiers, who were standing upright in their spots, move smartly. This time, the soldiers had just completed a 45 kilometer hike which stretched through the night, and their lines were a lot less straight, and their movements were not as smart. But they were all pleased to receive their kumptas and signify the end of their training.
I was suprised that the commander's 3-minute speech included the admonition that the soldiers were expected to fulfill all orders to the maximum, even, he stated clearly, with the upcoming disengagement. I was even more suprised that no one among the families cat-called, even though I saw many cars parked of people who had come to the ceremony with the distinctive orange flag which signifies opposition to the upcoming disengagement. But the ceremony passed peacefully, and when we sat with Avishai and his friends afterward, most of them expressed the opinion that participating in the disengagement was going to be a terribly demoralizing task for soldiers, and many who will not outright defy an order will simply not put a lot of effort into their task. It's a terrible time to be a soldier, with the disengagement hanging over the country, and I am terribly sorry that Avishai will have to be a part of it.
I was also suprised to see how many Ethopian families were at the ceremony to be with their sons...the number of Ethopian soldiers far exceeds the percentage of Ethopians in the general population. The Golani unit is an elite fighting unit, and it's interesting that, even with the difficulties that the Ethopians have in integrating into the country, so many of their sons are joining units such as Golani.
Avishai told me that one of the reasons that he likes Golani is that all the soldiers are like one family -- in contrast to other units, where there are a lot of cliques. I had told him about a neighbor's grandson who was in the elite Sheldag unit. This boy had undergone laser eye surgery so that he wouldn't have to wear glasses, and so that he'd be accepted into this elite unit. Now in, he has decided to resign, because he's getting a lot of flack from some of the secular Tel Avivians for being religious.
When I mentioned this to Avishai, he acknowledged that that's a problem in many units, especially some of the super-elite units which have a large percentage of boys from wealthy homes. Golani, he said, is known for its "Amcha" (all-one-big-family) atmosphere, and that's why there are so many Ethopians, Russians, Druse, Bedouin, religious, secular, etc. I have to say that, if Avishai is going to spend 3 years of his life in the army, I'm glad that he's found such a positive group to spend it with.