sam sank 248.88.
(photo credit: )
"I'm just overwhelmed. I'm just so thrilled and proud."
Jacalyn Sank could be the mother of any of the paratroopers at Thursday's Western Wall swearing-in ceremony - the plaza filled with beaming parents, shrieking friends, grandparents smiling with tears of joy and pride.
SamÂ Sank'sÂ family had all that, but his parents and grandparents came to the ceremony from London, arriving at the Kotel in a special van fromÂ YadÂ Sarah, a non-profit organization serving the handicapped.
Sank'sÂ father has dealt with multiple sclerosis for years, and today is almost totally paralyzed. Sank, as an only child and with strong support for his family, made a hard decision for any 18-year-old: to leave his home and his family, to move to Israel and volunteer as a combat soldier.
"I didn't have a difficult life, but I did some things that no 10-year-old should have to do," Sank said. "I helped care for dad with mum - at the moment he is completely paralyzed from the neck down. It's hard, but it's made me a strong person, and it makes moments like these even more special."
Sank says his parents didn't hesitate to sign the letter to allow him to be a combat soldier, an army requirement for only children. "This is his dream, and we would never want to stop him from following his dream,"Â JacalynÂ added.
"My Zionism is through the roof right now," Sank said before the ceremony, barely able to contain his excitement. "My whole life I've dreamed of this, and this ceremony will be part of that dream... I'm over the moon. I'm so happy I can't explain it!"
Sank made aliya last summer, and lives with a group ofÂ GarinÂ TzabarÂ soldiers on KibbutzÂ Ortal, on the central Golan Heights. After three months ofÂ ulpan, hikes, and paperwork, he considersÂ OrtalÂ his home and insists that he doesn't mind traversing the entire country every time he comes home for the weekend.
Sank shares his story of being aÂ lone soldier (one with no close relatives in Israel) in the Paratroopers Brigade on his blog - http://samsank.blogspot.com/ - which is quickly gaining a following of foreigners who are considering enlistingÂ and want to hear about day-to-day life in the IDF. The weekly blog posts are poignant and honest, as Sank explores his reasons for aliya, loneliness, language struggles, Israeli bureaucracy, and a dislike for tuna fish after only one day of eatingÂ "combat meals."
Comments are starting to come from people in America and South Africa following his progress and offering words of encouragement.Â The blog helps Sank keep in touch with family and friends, allowing him to share his thoughts about the army and aliya. "I probably get asked [why I made aliya] every day," he said. "It's hard for Israelis to understand because they were born here and grew up here, don't know anything different than living with other Jews. When you live outside, you see why its so important."
And according to Sank, there's only one other thing that could rank as important as Zionism, aliya and the army: TottenhamÂ Hotspur. Luckily,Â he'sÂ able to follow his favorite English soccer team online, although he won't be able to attend the games with his grandfather Papa like he used to.
At theÂ Kotel, just before the ceremony,Â JacalynÂ Sank looked out over the crowd. "I feel like an Israeli mother now, even though I live in London," she said. And then she said something that probably echoed hundreds of other parents in the plaza, "It was so incredible to see him in his uniform. He's definitely grown in the army. He's taller, but he's still got his baby face."