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Eitan Haber  

 

Time to take hands out of pockets

Improvisation, disorder have come to symbolize State of Israel

Published: 11.26.06, 17:36 / Israel Opinion

Several light years away, during my military service, I found myself at the IDF officers' school located at Kfar Sirkin near Petach Tikva. At the entrance to the army camp, even before encountering Shlomo Israeli, the awe-inspiring first sergeant, a large sign greeted newcomers. It read: "Walking around with hands in your pockets is prohibited."

 

There was no welcoming sign, no security measures, just the pocket thing. Winter was in full force, and what could be more natural for an 18-year-old than to stick his freezing hands into his warm pockets? Brrrr!

 

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The rampant rumors at the camp had it that top military cadets caught with their hands in their pockets were thrown out of the course without further ado. And of course the rumor went around, as it probably still does today, that a day before the graduation ceremony, just one day before! – a top cadet was caught with his hands in his pockets and was thrown out of the course. Unbelievable, isn't it?

 

Years later, I met Yosh Harpaz , a commander from the camp during the time I spent there. I asked him about the strange order. "I thought then," Yosh said, "And I still do today, that hands in pockets are a demonstration of laziness."

 

At the time, Yosh Harpaz was already the director of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He saw the smile on my face and guessed what my next question would be: "Yes, my dear man," he said, "if I could I would impose such an order at the university as well."

 

What amateurishness

I pondered on Harpaz's discipline the other day with the publication of rapist Benny Sela's escape from prison. What amateurishness, what a mess, what a screw up – excuse the expression. And we've come such a long way since that extreme command calling for order and discipline (hands in pockets, good lord!) yet the amateurishness is so prevalent in out lives and has almost come to symbolize the State of Israel today.

 

But why are we so surprised? For years we have advocated improvisation and lack of order. We worshipped leaders who turned their noses up as the rules of order and etiquette, those who improvised, moved barrels from road blocks, tricked the police and didn't comply with security orders. Well done!

 

Even worse is that we have turned improvisation into a law, one of our Ten Commandments: Thanks to our ploys we have won wars, built a nation.

 

All the stories from the days of the Palmach recount tales of our improvisations: Lack of order, lack of attention and lack of discipline have become norms. The orderly and the disciplined have become "sticklers" laughed at and even held in contempt. We idolize the "go-getters."

 

We witnessed the outcome of such a way of life in the recent war, we see it everyday in the number of road accidents and work related casualties, in the disorder that is reigning supreme and in one brutal rapist who (if he hasn't yet been caught) is currently sitting in his hideout and laughing at the police, at our improvisations, and at the world in general.

 

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