Only In Israel

Sunday, May 02, 2004


That's probably the first word every IDF soldier hears when he reaches his batallion. In civie hebrew, that would be translated as "Young", but in the military it gets a negative connotation.
A tza'ir is someone who is new to the military system, a "young one" in the terms of his time in the military. Now don't get me wrong, "tz'eirim" don't get abused or anything, they just get more kitchen duties. They get worse patrol hours (like middle of the night for instance) ETC...
There's no actual time when you stop being a tza'ir. It can also be used to describe a behaviour. Like if someone goes home and BUYS stuff for the military (the military is supposed to be all providing, what you don't get, you ask for, not buy with your own money), will forever be regarded as tza'ir, even if it's his last month in the military.
Usualy, it's no more than a common joke between friends, calling each other "tz'air" ETC, but time in the military, or "pazam" is quite a factor.
You see, the Israeli 3 years military service is divided into 3 parts: the first year, at the end of which you turn into a "father". A second year, at the end of which you turn into a "grandfather". And the third year, at the end of which you reach the highest rank in the military, the Civilian.
Respectfully, I'm the "son" of someone who enlisted a year before me.. ETC.
Now, the last few months, I've spent with people with much more than my "pazam". some of them were my "fathers", and I've come to realise that even with those honor games, and the countdown for the release of the military, most people really don't suffer that much in the army. The "pazam" issue doesn't represent resentment to the military, it simply represents the wish for a change, to be a civilian. Most folks never got that much of it before the military. In any other country people my age would be now attending college, not grabbing rifles and fighting. When I trained with some American military guys, I heard them refer to IDF soldiers as "Israkidies". The American soldiers I've met are mostly in their 20s, who see the military as a career rather than an obligation to your country. But this is the bad part of the compulsory draft in Israel. The good part is the military is part of the nation. Which is why I can honestly say that a military coup would never be possible in Israel. The military is too connected to the people. It's the People's Army. Whether you get drafted with all the guys you finished highschool with, or whether you continue to serve as a reservist till you get 40, the IDF is the largest melting pot out there. You meet with guys you'd never thought you meet in your life, and you mature in the military in a way you just couldn't do in the civilian life. When a 20 year old guy gets command of a platoon, he has a giant responsibility on his hands. That's not something you could achieve in civilian life. When you get a weapon you're in charge of your friends, of the civilians surrounding you and in a larger scale, the entire country depends on you diong your job right. That's not something a college kid would ever handle.
I'm not sure what I think about compulsory draft. To me, it did only good, and I do feel that everyone should return to the country just a small bit of what the country invested in them. But is the military the only way to do so?
You could suggest various civilian projects, or what is called "Sherut Leumi"-National Service. This option is mostly picked by religious girls (or agnostic girls pretending to be religious).
Can it possibly be Expanded to contain other Israel publics who currently do nothing to defend Israel. Like the Orthodox Jews, or the Israeli arabs (those who do not volunteer to serve in the IDF). But the real question is, will it bring those publics closer to us, to everyday Israelis, to the majority.
The answer is no.
When you're not in the military, you're not in the melting pot. You're not meddling along with all parts of Israeli society. With all religions, with all congregations of Judaism. Those people, even if they'll do their part will hardly be accepted as a part of Israeli society, because our national identity is too absorbed with "what did you do in the military".
What point am I trying to make? I don't know, just raising my thoughts. Maybe no point at all, maybe I've raised some arguments that you folks might find interesting. Maybe the next time I get home I'll be sorry I ever wrote this.


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