Joining the Israeli Military

An Essay by Meir Sadan

There are a few good things about being in the army. You never have to worry about food, sleep, or basically anything else you may have to worry about regarding your own economy. You meet people from all over the country, which helps you to broaden your views about people, and society in general. You get to protect civilians, which is usually a satisfying experience. You also get some physical practice, which is always a good thing. And, not so surprisingly, you laugh a lot.

There's a lot of funny stuff going in my army—the Israeli one, that is. A massive force of 18-21 year olds with varying backgrounds, some living outdoors and feeding off battle meals, some repairing night vision goggles and coming home every night—all living in a semi-dictatorship, a process that will eventually make us even more Israeli than we think we already are. That is our army. The little jokes and tidbits are an inseparable part.

I got drafted with a so-so idea of how the army's supposed to be, enough for me to be able to deal with the issue of discipline and few how-to basics (how to tie up army boots, how to fold army blankets, etc). Along with this knowledge, were a few other "unofficial" facts that are either probably true, or have been proven to be true. This article will stand as a review of those tidbits, jokes, and rumors that I've been able to collect up until now, which has been a little more than a month of service in the Israeli army.

Let's start with the most popular story, and this one is certified to be true. Israeli Army food is fortified with large quantities of baking soda, which makes almost all food taste alike. Other than that, it helps reduce male potency, either in order to reduce sexual dreams and erotic urges, or to suppress actual sexual contact—probably both. Some of my friends from boot camp who worked in the kitchen have actually seen the soda hit the cooking pan, but didn't have the guts to stop it from occurring (not that I would do anything about it myself).

Another tidbit proven to be true is the one about the unofficial "beauty" field. Apparently, the army categorizes girls according to how they look. You can see this for yourself, if you're a soldier, in the recruitment office: notice the girls who sit at the desks, the windows, the girls that interview you, etc. They all have at least one thing in common, and, unfortunately, it isn't good manners.

Speaking of manners—the army has a sophisticated way of stripping you of any kind of good behavior, and replacing it with aggressive facial expressions and tones. In order to achieve this goal, the army takes the following measures: during boot camp, you are treated outrageously badly, which usually cracks most (Israeli) people right away. If that doesn't work, you are also treated to the worst medical attention ever, which means that in case you have a serious problem, you have to fight in order to see a doctor, and once you finally do, you end up having to fight another fight in order to see a (hopefully) better doctor. If this doesn't work to break you down, there are a lot of other places you can get bad service in the army. But, that doesn't matter, you'll probably crack up sooner or later.

Another psychological phenomenon to consider is the issue of female commanders. There's been an apparent rise in the number of female commanders (over males) in the last few years. This is happening because a certain research once found that when you have a woman telling you what to do, there is less ego conflict than with male commanders, who can trigger an unnecessary "macho" reaction.

On the very last day of boot camp we had a person who climbed up on a roof and threatened to jump because he heard that he might have had to do boot camp all over again for some problem he had had earlier in training. In my opinion, he could've done it in a much more convincing way, but even climbing up on the roof and sitting there, looking depressed for a few hours got him the disqualification, and freedom. I don't really know for certain how bad a mental profile in the army harms you, but he's free now, in any case.

Army rules state that soldiers must comply with what their commanders order them to do, "in the best way they see fit." This last quote can mean two things. Never ask your commanders too many questions because there's no such thing as "not-stupid questions." The second thing is sort of a result of the first one­due to not being able to ask questions, you are free to interpret the command in any way "you see fit," which means, for example, if a commander tells a soldier to patrol somewhere, and doesn't tell him much more than that, the soldier can interpret "patrol" in any way he'd like­and go buy himself some falafel and sit down somewhere (provided that no commanders are nearby, of course). This example isn't that good... Basically, this principle can do way cooler things, but my mind's a total blank now.

Let's end this with a popular cliche—"If it's wet, it's clean." You get very little encouragement to wash your hands at appropriate times, and if you do, it's usually just soapless water. Same goes for cleaning bathrooms, kitchens, etc. You are usually not required to use soap. Ah well.

There you go. Those were a few tidbits from my current "world." Sometimes, when you look at it from the inside, you ask yourself "how can this massive structure not fall apart this instant?" But the fact is that the Israeli military manages to stay the way it always has been, and facts are things no one can argue with.






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