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Thursday, November 18, 2010

A lesson in modesty

Since I didn't serve in the military here, I rarely engage in the typical Israeli 'what did you do in the army' Q & A sessions with new acquaintances.

Oh sure, at some point during the process of becoming friendly with Israelis, one usually figures out what they did in uniform... but I've always subscribed to the theory that if you weren't a member of a club, it's bad form to ask questions about the club.

A few months back I was having lunch with a few friends when one of them asked a new face at the table what he had done in the army. The new guy shrugged affably and said, "Hayiti Nahag" (I was a driver).

Considering how many types of Jeeps, armored vehicles, APCs, tanks, etc. the IDF has in its inventory, 'driver' is probably about as common an answer as you are likely to hear to the question 'What did you do...?'. But since that job doesn't carry a lot of cache, it isn't an answer likely to spark a lot of follow-up.

And so it was at this long-ago meal. Everyone smiled at the new guy and went on talking about their own army experiences.

The other day I happened to visit the office of the 'new' guy who had said he was a driver, and noticed a very small framed photograph hanging near his desk in an unobtrusive spot on his otherwise uncluttered walls.

I had to wait for him to finish up a phone call, so I wandered around looking at the book titles on his shelves, and ended up peering at the small photo. It was a photograph of an Israel Air Force helicopter hovering over a body of water... lowering (or maybe raising) a soldier on a cable attached to a rescue winch.

There was a small brass plaque attached to the photo frame indicating that it had been given as a memento to the pilot... an officer who happened to have the same name as the 'driver' who was sitting a few feet from me, finishing up his phone call.

Posted by David Bogner on November 18, 2010 | Permalink

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In my experience, those who provide the least detail about their Israeli military service are those who served in the most dangerous and/or secretive units.

Posted by: Noah Roth | Nov 18, 2010 12:23:31 PM

Noah -- like me!

Posted by: Mike Miller | Nov 18, 2010 1:25:40 PM

Noah -- like me!

Posted by: Mike Miller | Nov 18, 2010 1:25:41 PM

Noah -- like me!

Posted by: Mike Miller | Nov 18, 2010 1:25:42 PM

Err... that wasn't supposed to happen.

Especially since the triple post, in addition to being annoying, sort of undermines my joke. Trep -- a little help, please?

Posted by: Mike Miller | Nov 18, 2010 1:26:37 PM

It's an old story. The ones who boast, didn't do. The ones who did, don't boast.

I was walking down the street with a friend who made Aliyah at the same time as me when we stopped in front of an IDF surplus shop, the type with all the pins in the window. "Oh, that was my boyfriend's unit," she said, pointing to one."He's got a plaque with it, but refuses to tell me what he did." Since I know these things, I was able to tell her it was a pretty elite unit indeed.

Posted by: Nachum | Nov 18, 2010 1:27:22 PM

Noah - In my experience, those who provide the least detail about their Israeli military service are those who served in the most dangerous and/or secretive units.

This is so true.

Posted by: Mark | Nov 18, 2010 4:41:33 PM

Don`t know about the IDF,but those exiting the US military,with a high security rating,have to sign a statement agreeing to never reveal certain details of their service.I signed this document many years ago in Germany.

Posted by: Ed | Nov 18, 2010 7:45:04 PM

Well, he just told you he was a driver. He never said just what it was he drove.

Posted by: Elisson | Nov 18, 2010 8:01:31 PM

It is always the quiet types that you have to worry about.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 19, 2010 12:38:47 AM

Watch out for those who talk too much...

Posted by: Batya | Nov 19, 2010 8:24:41 AM

Very good story. In one of my classes we are talking about heroes at the moment. This would be a great text to share.

Posted by: Ilana-Davitata | Nov 22, 2010 5:13:05 PM

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