The Adventures of Commander Slifkin
(That's not me.)
As I discussed in my post Guns, Girls and Gemaras, my eldest daughter, who struck out on her own path in life, surprised my wife and I by drafting to the IDF this year. The army selected her for the job of mefakedet (which loosely translates to Commander), due to her natural leadership skills and her experience as both a madricha in Ariel and setting up the new Sabavta youth movement. (The IDF places tremendous value on work in youth movements.)
After completing training at a base down south, Commander Slifkin was moved up north. Aside from her job of mefakedet, she also has to do such things as taking turns with guard duty, which can involve either patrols or monitoring cameras. She works extremely hard and we are immensely proud of her. Here’s a picture that she shared from beginning the latter duty as Shabbat began - note the three books on the desk, which are a siddur, Peninei Halacha on Shabbat, and a book on halacha for soldiers!
Commander Slifkin’s specific job as mefakedet is to train soldiers who are new to Israeli culture. This involves such things as teaching them Hebrew, teaching them how to fire a gun, and even teaching them about Zionism - while some of the new recruits are idealistic Americans or French or Bnei Menashe from India, others are Russians who came to Israel solely to get out of Russia and have no knowledge or interest in fighting for the Jewish homeland, and there are also the Druze and Muslim and Christian Arab soldiers. And so my daughter has taught them about such things as the Dreyfuss Affair and other lessons in Jewish history which explain why it’s so important for there to be a Jewish State.
(Incidentally, my daughter is absolutely forbidden from letting her trainees know that she speaks English fluently. On the rare occasions when she has to use an English word, she has to say it with a heavy Israeli accent!)
Anyway, one of the things that my daughter was taught in her new base was that during emergency drills for rocket attacks, everyone has to go to the “ambatya.” Ambatya literally means “bathtub.” But in this army base, it is a slang term for “The Basin”, a recessed area in the compound which is considered the safest place to take refuge from rockets.
Nobody told my daughter that.
She thought that it was odd that in a rocket attack, everyone would have to run to the bathtubs. And there weren’t even any actual bathtubs in the bathrooms, only shower stalls. Still, orders are orders.
Then one night, there was a rocket drill. The siren blared.
Several hundred soldiers dropped what they were doing and ran for the Basin.
Passing them, heading in the opposite direction, were the thirteen soldiers under Commander Slifkin, running at full speed to the bathroom. Commander Slifkin herself was yelling “To the showers! Everyone to the showers!”
The bewildered superior officers followed after them to see what on earth they were doing. They saw them running into the shower stalls and frantically squashing together like sardines.
When the reason for this bizarre behavior was discovered, a number of officers were temporarily incapacitated due to being paralyzed with laughter.
Apparently the IDF is now reassessing its procedures for training new commanders.
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