Only In Israel

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mem Tzadik

Mem Tzadik is a Hebrew acronym for "Mishtara Tzvait"- The military police. It's a loathed combination of letters, too often used as a cry for warning, to warn the other soldiers not to get hit by them. Their presence is often accompanied with white hats (who look like dunce caps to me) and white and orange armbands. They usually hunt in the morning, and their favorite hunting ground is a bus station.

You see, in Israel, soldiers travel in public transportation just like everyone else, and because some high ranking officer had nothing better to do, a special police force was established to keep the soldiers well dressed. For instance, your berret must be in your epaulette, you must be well shaved, have rubberbands that keep the bottom of your pants above the shoe line, and a million of other laws made up by some high ranking officers with too much time on their hands.

The Military Police usually hangs out around central bus stations, where they literally hunt down soldiers. They come in flocks of 3-4, with a couple more soldiers in civie clothes (to catch people who try to run away), they usually surround a victim, and then start looking for reasons to screw him. They usually go way beyond checking you're dressed according to the regulations and find silly little articles in the law, just to land anyone they can a report. A few examples of the more stupid stuff you can get a report for would be wearing a scarf, walking with headphones, not carrying the "IDF spirit" card on you at all times and plenty of other regulations noone is sure how and when they were invented.

There's really no prescription to avoid being harmed by them, they're everywhere and come for everyone. Although it does seem that they tend to sneak on combat soldiers and leave the jobnikim (soldiers with deskjobs) alone. And let me tell you, there's nothing that sucks more than coming home on a rainy day, after 21 days in some hellhole and getting a report for mud on your shoes.

You're probably thinking to yourself, "Hey, so you've got a report, how bad can it be". Oh, yeah. Very bad. Moving from a month's detention bad, to a few weeks in jail bad. For some stupid reason, battalion commanders are extra sensitive about the number of reports their soldiers get, because they compare the statistics of all battalions in the brigade. So, as sad as it may sound, you may find Colonels and even Brigadier Generals dealing with petty things like "how many soldiers walked without a berret last week" instead of actually doing what they're there for - fighting wars.

But, there's a catch, even for "Mem Tzadik" guys. They can't act on private property. Meaning you're only in danger when you're on the outside. They can't catch you inside a bus, a train, a mall, or even a shop inside the central bus station. This is why usually you see shops in central bus stations crowded with soldiers, who run as quick as they can from the shop to their bus, across the dangerous waters of the open street.

My personal favorite game that developed from those laws includes catching some Mem Tzadik's eye from the window, ruffling my hair, throwing my berret away, taking my shirt out of my pants, and giving him the finger, knowing he can do absolutely nothing to me, while I'm on the bus.

Well, it's going to be Sunday morning in a few hours, and they're going to be out, as always, hunting us down. If you don't see me for a long while, it's a sign they got me.


  • Cute post. Ya know, my husband always seemed to have a dislike for these police when we would see them while vacationing in Israel, and I never realized why (not sure why I never thought to get the full story). Guess it has been the same thing for a while (he served in the late 80's).
    ~enjoying your blog...

    By Blogger Emah S, at 3:42 AM, March 05, 2006  

  • Stay safe,because we need to have you with us...

    By Blogger Grandma, at 4:18 AM, March 05, 2006  

  • I never knew. Thanks.

    By Blogger brainhell, at 10:24 PM, March 06, 2006  

  • I never knew about that. I happen to work for Israelis (an "Authorized Agent" for Cingular Wireless), and one of them told me she used to be in the "Police", though I'm not sure if she meant the dreaded MPs or the regular police (or are they one and the same?).

    Here in the States, MPs aren't particularly popular, but they're nowhere near as dreaded as they apparently are in Israel.

    By Blogger Jason Lomberg, at 10:30 AM, March 08, 2006  

  • We have a like-wise hunting game...except we used to play it on the school ground in basic school (from 7 yrs to 12yrs). Usually it was crossing the playground from one side to the other side (back & forth). Usually when we got caught it was either because there was a male hunter or we liked the female hunter...or a batch of female hunters got us boxed in.

    By Blogger Brigant, at 4:56 PM, March 08, 2006  

  • I've done my military duty in the IDF. Nothing heroic. A Shlav-Betnik, now dismissed.

    I never had to deal with the MPs but this sounds ridiculous!

    Maybe a wildcat strike by all enlisted soldiers is in order. Someone should organize a call for all soldiers to put mud on their boots, untuck their shirts and wear their berrets backwards starting sometime in the future until the IDF reassesses the stupidity of their overregulations and their harassment of enlistees.

    I'm all for discipline and I'm against tardiness but the other extreme is just that - extreme!


    By Anonymous Shy Guy, at 5:05 PM, March 16, 2006  

  • Heh, you don't get to have "strikes" in the military, although that's a lovely thought.
    Trying to organize a strike would be called a rebellion, and get you court martialed.

    By Blogger OnlyInIsrael, at 12:39 AM, March 26, 2006  

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