The Granite Battalion of the Nahal Brigade gazed into the mirrors of the platoon bathrooms as they painted their faces with the colors of night and dirt. The 31 mile beret march was just ahead of them.
Nahal soldiers get their faces painted ahead of the 31 mile march.
On the outskirts of a Bedouin village, 200 soldiers gathered at the starting point just after sunset. The sky had just cleared after a day of light desert rain and the faces of the soldiers showed signs of relief.
Prior to the march, each company huddled around their commander, who prayed for his soldiers to stay safe as they embarked on the rigorous 10 hour trek overnight to Masada.
Nahal soldiers gather together for prayers ahead of their 31 mile trek.
At 5:30pm camera flashes lit up the painted faces of the soldiers, and they kicked off their journey across the desert.
Every four miles, the soldiers stopped to refill their canteens and rest their weary legs. At a particular resting point, Bedouin villagers cheered the soldiers on as their dog howled under the moonlight.
The unpaved and rocky pathways were tearing up the soles of the soldiers’ feet. Each clumsy step on an uneven rock made them groan in pain.
Nahal’s Granite Battalion march their way to Masada on the rough terrain.
The soldiers’ eyes were filled with determination. When a comrade tripped over his feet, his fellows helped him up and pushed him forward. On the steep, rocky hills, soldiers formed a vertical line and pushed each other to level ground.
Ahead of the climb up Masada, the soldiers unfolded their stretchers and made their way to the foot of the ruins of a Roman fortress. Leading the way was a nomad, white-haired canine. The echoes of the marching boots bounced off the fortress walls as the soldiers neared the finish.
Stretchers rolled out, Nahal soldiers get closer to the foot of Masada.
Before sunrise, the soldiers, exhausted but happy, set foot on Masada. A set of giant speakers greeted them on arrival, blasting Israeli pop music to keep them awake for their culmination ceremony.
As the sun rose above the Dead Sea, the straight, yet weary right arm of each soldier saluted the proud Nahal Brigade Commander. It was over. The lime green berets were in their hands. Soldiers at ease.
Nahal soldiers finally take a seat after being on their feet for the past 10 hours.