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Middle east

‘Real men don’t write poetry,’ says Israeli army brigade

© Moti Milrod/Haaretz

Text by HAARETZ

Latest update : 2013-06-19

Israel's army, once known for holding poetry writing contests, today seems less keen on promoting the arts within its ranks, after a soldier was ordered to refrain from sharing his poems on Army Radio.

Real men don’t write poetry. That seems to be the attitude of the Nahal Brigade commanders who recently refused to let a soldier from a Nahal battalion read some of his poems on Army Radio on grounds it would “ruin the image of the combat soldier.”

Around 10 days ago, a combat soldier from one of the Nahal battalions was invited to read some poems he had written on one of Army Radio’s weekly programs, “Books, Gentlemen, Books.” The program was devoted to books and the army in honor of Hebrew Book Week.

The soldier was already en route to the Army Radio studios when he received a call from the brigade spokeswoman, a soldier serving in the Nahal Brigade headquarters who answers to Nahal Brigade Commander Col. Yehuda Fuchs, who told him he could not appear on the program. The spokeswoman forbade him to be interviewed because, she said, it would “ruin the image of the combat soldier,” and he was liable to reveal “personal and sensitive” information.

She further told him that the issue had been discussed by the brigade commanders, who decided that “this is not how the Nahal Brigade wants to be portrayed in public.”

The soldier tried to argue, noting that there are no few combat soldiers who later became popular musicians and singers, citing Idan Amedi, an Israel Defense Forces commander who was a finalist in the eighth season of “Kochav Nolad,” ‏(Israel’s version of “American Idol”‏). But the brigade officers insisted that his appearance would “undermine the status of the fighter.”

Members of the soldier’s company were infuriated by the decision. “There was a lot of anger,” said one friend. “After all, history is full of fighters who went on to publish their songs and produced a serious buzz, starting with Meir Ariel and others.

“In the end, people think it’s something nice,” he said. “I think ‘ruining the fighter’s image,’ is a stupid reason.”

In the past, the IDF itself held poetry and prose writing contests for soldiers on active duty and encouraged such writing. For example, in 2006 there was a poetry contest for soldiers as part of the annual Shirutrom fund-raising broadcast, with entries also published on the IDF spokesman’s website.

The military newspaper Bamahane sponsors an annual project called “Soldiers write,” in which regular and standing army soldiers are called on to write their own endings to a story written by a well-known author. Bamahane also calls on soldiers to write original works in a contest held in cooperation with the Education and Youth Corps, and then publishes these works in a special issue devoted to the initiative.

The IDF spokesman did not officially respond to the explanation given the soldier for banning him from the program. “We don’t plan to address internal procedures,” said an IDF source, referring to the decision by the Nahal Brigade commanders.

The IDF spokesman did say that “because the soldier was not given permission by the IDF spokesman to be interviewed, as army regulations require, it was made clear to the soldier that he couldn’t appear on the program.”

© Read premium content from leading Israeli daily Haaretz on FRANCE 24

Date created : 2013-06-19

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