IDF infantry soldiers in the Nahal Brigade earned their stripes this week in a grueling masa kumta, a beret march pushing their endurance and will to the limits before completing their training and officially graduating from being recruits to full-fledged soldiers of the Jewish state.
Taking part in the march was Randy Swartz from Boston, who was capping off a journey that saw him immigrate to Israel and devote himself to defending the Jewish homeland.
The overnight march of 50 kilometers (over 30 miles) took the soldiers from the unit's base to Masada, the last holdout of the last Jewish state before the Romans completed their occupation and expelled most of the Jews nearly 2,000 years ago.
"You keep your eye on the prize, on the goal of finishing and the will to do it, and the feet, they just go automatic," Swartz said, noting on the "fighting spirit" required by the feat.
He added "when you came to visit Israel as a little kid you saw the soldiers, you wanted to be them and you wanted to emulate them, and finally it's happening."