Zionism looks like a dirty pair of sneakers.

Sneakers put out to dry. Wet and full of sand, they looked tired.

My heart almost bursts to see them.

They tell a story people who live elsewhere wouldn’t recognize – but most Israelis would. Those who don’t have this story in their own home know the story well. Across political affiliations and religious denominations, it is a story we all honor.

A dirty pair of sneakers; this is what Zionism looks like.

A silent testament to effort, the desire to achieve and most of all, the desire to serve.

At night, down at the beach, in the cold, in the wind. Running, stretching, building strength. Pounding the pavement, through the sand, the water and back again.

Straining under extra weight, purposely added to make the run more difficult.

The biting wind is something to ignore. The temporary discomfort something to laugh at, knowing that future challenges will be harder.

No one told him to go. He goes on his own. There are no requests for assistance, no: “Can you drive me?” Just a quick “bye” and then he is gone, off to join others like him.

Together they strive, pushing themselves to new heights, knowing the tests they long to pass will stretch them physically and mentally beyond their current limits. And should they pass, the next challenges will be even harder.

They must be stronger, faster, better… that is the only way to gain admittance to an elite IDF unit. For this group, no regular unit will do. They strive to be the best so they can join the best.

Their peers will also serve but few will undertake the challenges this group choose to take on. Few are able, capable of doing so.

They are not competing for their own glory. There is nothing glorious in being wet, tired, hurt, dirty, exhausted… They are competing for the honor of serving their people, shoulder to shoulder with others as dedicated, as passionate as they are.

Their Zionism is what promises our future.

First Published at Inspiration from Zion

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