Without appreciating the beak, you cannot understand the pride and joy a soldier has in reaching the ranks of Orev Tzanchanim (my special-forces Paratroopers unit). The beak (in Hebrew, makor) is a distinct t-shirt, generally black in color, with two looping golden eyes and a silver beak on the backside. The eyes and beak have an dangerous yet humorous edge, suggesting this is a raven well aware of its checkered legacy in popular myth and legend.
Every unit in the army has a symbol of some kind. And every unit produces t-shirts celebrating their accomplishments. Yet few units have soldiers who say without a trace of phoniness that the only reason they chose their unit, and the thing that motivated them to persevere through the hardest bouts of training, is a t-shirt. Except Orev Tzanchanim. Except the makor t-shirt.
The makor t-shirt is said to be the best t-shirt in the IDF. Whatever the case, the shirt has its own Facebook group, a bunch of world travelers who send in photos celebrating the shirt's presence at famous sites around the globe. The highpoint of our masa aliyah was undoubtedly arriving in our rooms and finding a black makor shirt neatly folded on each soldiers' bed. We had been forbidden from owning or wearing a makor shirt until this moment. Watching everyone slip into the heralded t-shirt was the ultimate sign that we had arrived.
In Jewish folklore, 'Kefitzat Haderech,' the shortening of the way, is the ability to travel with unnatural speed, to be in one place and then suddenly appear in another.
Kefitzat Haderech is now the notes of a former grad student, no longer traveling across Asia as he prepares for life as an Israeli combat soldier. Insights on Garin Tzabar, Gibushim and the Israeli Army.