Peres with outstanding soldiers.
(photo credit: GPO)
It will look great on television on Tuesday morning, as it does every Independence Day.
As usual, 120 of the most outstanding young soldiers of the IDF will march across the stage at the President’s Residence, take their seats and join in as President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz sing their favorite songs that convey the national ethos.
Leading the singing will be Rita, who is one of the president’s favorite singers. Together with Peres she will sing Arik Einstein’s “Uf Gozal” (“Fly Away, Little Bird”), which illustrates the freedom of the bird who leaves the nest but warns of the eagle hovering overhead.
The soldiers come from different units, different backgrounds, different parts of the country, and all that unites them at first glance is the uniform, though one female soldier, an army doctor, wasn’t wearing hers, because she’s in an advanced stage of pregnancy.
Another female soldier who serves in the air force, was in uniform, but could not march because she is permanently confined to a wheelchair.
What differentiates them is the color of their berets.
The soldiers were put through their paces, marching onto the stage again and again, taking their seats, sitting down, standing up, and sitting down again until they had it all perfectly synchronized.
At around 11.30 a.m., Peres, escorted by his military aide, Brig.-Gen. Hasson Hasson, came out to meet and greet the soldiers. Walking along the front row Peres shook hands with each soldier, asked their names, where they came from, how long they’ve been serving and what they do in the IDF. In the case of officers, he wanted to know whether they intend to join the standing army, and in the case of immigrant soldiers, how long they’ve been in the country, whether their parents are here too, and what their plans are when they complete their service. Here and there he exchanged jokes. Several of the soldiers said they had never expected to be singled out for distinction, and that it had come as a complete but very pleasant surprise.
Apologizing to those soldiers with whom he had not met personally, Peres said: “You are the outstanding soldiers of an outstanding army who have done your utmost for the state, which is a great thing. You are the promise of the nation, and I’m glad to see so many female soldiers. I’m sure that all of you have a sense of mission and that your families are proud and excited to have sons and daughters who have been distinguished as outstanding soldiers.”
According to the IDF Spokesman, several parents of lone soldiers who came to Israel for the express purpose of serving in the army, will come to Israel to witness the ceremony in which the president and chief of staff will present each of the outstanding soldiers with a citation and a university scholarship.