We all know IDF soldiers march to a different tune. And now, thanks to YouTube, we can all see just how different that can be. Earlier this month, the talk of the town – first in Hebron and then, courtesy of the Web, throughout the global village – were Israel’s dancing soldiers.
The six highly trained Nahal soldiers from the Hod platoon of the 50th Battalion stepped out of line and began shooting – shooting a destined-to-be viral video, that is. The clip, under the title: “PALHOD 50 Rock the Casbah in Hebron,” clearly shows the troupe, I mean troops, breaking into a choreographed dance routine, dressed to kill, or rather kitted out in helmets and flak jackets to prevent them being killed, as they patrolled an empty street in Hebron. Kee$ha’s “Tik Tok” provided the beat.
The soldiers stepped on some toes and took some flak: In the context of the Middle East conflict almost no move, let alone something including a mix of “The Macarena,” “The Chicken Song” and “Tik Tok,” could pass quietly.
Predictably there were those who immediately accused them of dirty dancing. Some of the talkbacks went ballistic, going as far as accusing them of dancing on the blood of innocents, which just shows you that winning hearts and minds is a mission impossible.
Nonetheless, television stations in countries including Britain, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, the US, India and Brazil, couldn’t resist the temptation to show the clip and at least one broadcaster declared the soldiers “cute.” So we haven’t hit rock bottom yet.
While some Palestinians were quoted as complaining that the music of the dawn patrol dancers woke them up, a Yediot Aharonot report revealed the dance was filmed at 7pm, in a quiet area, and was taken in one shot without music, with a commander calling out the steps according to pre-rehearsed codes.
In Israel, incidentally, the song is better known as “Shir Hamekaplot” (The clothes folders’ song), from a series of skits on the popular Eretz Nehederet satire program, starring two apathetic salesgirls who go berserk when shoppers mess with the neatly stacked clothes.
The celebrity soldiers were not dancing for joy, but neither do they have any regrets, except that the clip, which was meant as an internal joke marking the end of their compulsory military service, was broadcast globally before they had been demobilized. Those who didn’t see the humor in the clip should keep in mind that as parting shots go, it could have been much worse.
I doubt that this is what Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein had in mind when he launched the Masbirim program encouraging individuals to take the initiative, but when it comes to battling an image problem, the soldiers were, in their inimitable way, probably more successful than much IDF-produced video material.
They won’t get a chance to get too big for their boots, however.
As soon as their end-of-service gag stopped being a secret, the soldiers knew they would have to face the music.
In the words of the IDF Spokesman’s Office, “Two squad commanders who were involved in the video were summoned for clarification. They took full responsibility for the act, and its severity and consequences were explained to them.”
However, OC Nahal Amir Abulafia obviously realized there’s no need to make a song and dance out of everything. He decided to impose an educational punishment and ordered the two to produce a video, with the help of the relevant IDF unit, instructing soldiers not to repeat this behavior. The dance, it seems, will not become a routine part of IDF service.
With most of the Hebron street dancers now out of the army, they might have time to watch what is billed as the “Battle of the Year, Israel 2010.” It turns out that while most of our attention has been focused on the life-and-death issues of military successes and failures, the country is gradually becoming a major player on the international breakdance scene.
The Seventh International Street Arts Festival, which has been taking place this month, culminated yesterday in Rishon Lezion with a fight for a chance to represent the country at the World Breakdance Championship in France later this year. (Info at www.breakdance.org.il and www.sa-p.co.il.)
According to Dvir Rozen, CEO of Street Art Productions and the Israel Breakdance Organization, a number of soldiers every year participate in the various local megaevents and Israel has already won several international awards in the field.
“The Israeli participants bring a special creative mind-set to the competitions, with their own unique flavor, and are motivated by a strong sense of Zionism. They want to show the world that though we’re a small country we’re here,” says Rozen.
The in-your-face-Zionism is evident in the name of one group considered among the favorites for the Battle of the Year showdown, Kosher Flava, whose South African-born, serving soldier Raphael (4Eyes) Nathan was profiled in the Post in March.
Rozen invites the demobilized Nahal soldiers to get in on the act but concedes they need more practice if they’re going to star outside of the army.
For the performance of their military careers, however, I salute them.
Liat Collins is the editor of the International Edition of the Jerusalem Post.
Printed by courtesy of The Jerusalem Post.