A photo of female Israeli soldiers in thongs on the Web is harmless compared to offensive images posted by soldiers in the past, says Haaretz’s Allison Kaplan Sommer, noting that 18-year-old Israelis are in the most restrictive period of their lives.
Here’s a dirty little secret of Israeli parenting – as difficult and frightening and stressful as the prospect of delivering our teenage children to the army at the age of 17 or 18 is – it is also, in one sense, a relief.
Let’s face it - these are the stupid years, the age where you feel all-powerful and indestructible, where the concept of stepping out of your parents' house and being viewed by the world as an adult is exhilarating and you don’t know where to begin exercising your new freedoms.
I see my friends in the United States send their children off to college, and watch them head for dorm life where there are no boundaries, no limitations, where only their own motivation and desire to succeed will determine whether they go to sleep at a reasonable hour and make it to their morning classes, or stay up partying all night and stay in bed all day. All parents can do is cross their fingers and hope they have instilled enough self-discipline in their kids to cause them to make the right choices most, if not all the time.
By contrast, Israeli kids hit 18 and they are in the most restrictive lifestyle they will ever know before or after this period. They don't control when they wake up, when they go to sleep, in many cases, every minute in between will be dictated to them, and if they don’t do what they are supposed to, the consequences are serious. Their commanders and the system are the bad guys, forcing good behavior on them. We parents, at least when they are on base, are off the hook.
But, of course, though these soldiers look so grown-up and impressive wearing their uniforms and serious expressions, underneath the veneer of these seemingly mature and responsible soldiers, are reckless 18-year-olds waiting to get out. And once in awhile, a story like this one hits the wire services and is splashed across the international press, as happened on Sunday:
The Israeli military said Sunday that it has disciplined a group of female soldiers who posed for photos in underwear and combat gear and posted the images on Facebook....
Israeli news site Walla said the women were new recruits stationed on a base in southern Israel. One picture showed the soldiers removing their fatigue uniforms to expose their underwear and back sides. In another, five women posed in what appeared to be a barracks room, dressed only in helmets and a small amount of combat equipment. The faces of the soldiers were blurred in the photos.
If these girls were living the life their American peers, they’d be just another bunch of airheaded sorority sisters pushing the limits of good taste on Facebook. Sure, their campus might be buzzing about them, but the Washington Post and New York Times wouldn’t be into their business.
But they aren’t - they are girls (I should say young women, but it is difficult to do so when they behave like that) who don’t necessarily have any desire or natural aptitude life in the military, but are doing their duty, and decided to relieve the boredom in a silly way. And yes, their idiotic prank reflects badly on the Israel Defense Forces.
It’s not the first time IDF soldiers have gotten in trouble for putting stupid photos or videos of themselves on social media. In 2010, a bunch of soldiers in Hebron were punished after making a video boogying down a street in full battle gear to the Kesha song “Tik Tok.”
Certainly, I’d be appalled if my daughter were to have been one of the thonged young ladies in the photos, or my son was caught dancing down the roads of the West Bank to a disco beat. But I’d much prefer to have a kid involved in a ‘stupidity on social media’ scandal rather than the IDF social media incidents that go beyond inappropriate behavior - the kind that involve racism, extreme insensitivity to the suffering of others and overall moral corruption.
There have been too many of this more serious brand of IDF social media scandals in recent years that have become more common as social media has become inescapable. In 2009, soldiers uploaded YouTube videos of Palestinians being humiliated. In 2010, there was a scandal featuring a female soldier named Eden Abergil, who smiled for the camera in front of bound Palestinian prisoners and put it up on Facebook. In February, a soldier posted an Instagram photo of a Palestinian boy in the crosshairs of his rifle, and last March, a soldier wrote"there is nothing better than a dead Arab" and other disturbing slurs on his Facebook page.
So while neither form of social media scandal thrills any parent, if we have to choose - I say bring on the thong photos and the Kesha videos. They may not make us proud of our young people, but at least they don’t make us deeply ashamed of who they are. I’d rather see our young people in uniform losing their dignity instead of losing their conscience.
By Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz.
Date created : 2013-06-04