Every combat soldier has been there. We’ve all done some sort of dance with a gun in hand, or taken a picture at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or in the wrong underwear. Anything to pass the time and avoid shchikat kav- the mind numbing that occurs after being stationed in one area for a bit too long.
Sometimes things get out of hand, resulting in the many stories that fill the arsenal used against Israel and the IDF. Other times, it’s a harmless, even heartwarming dance that lights up YouTube across the world.
Last night a group of IDF soldiers in Hebron took a break from their patrol to party at a Palestinian party, sending Facebook and Twitter into sharing frenzies. The now-viral squadron was suspended from duty this morning.
I can’t say that I wasn’t happy to see this video. Much like the clips of soldiers performing choreographed dances on duty, it offers the world a rare glimpse of the real IDF. An understanding that our soldiers are human and enjoy having a good time just like everyone else. Their dancing with Palestinians demonstrates that we are not a country that forces hate and fear on our youth, and are even open to celebrating with “the other.”
Quite frankly, it was nice to see two seemingly hostile sides having fun together.
But there is an obvious problem here. It hasn’t been too long since the collective sigh released by Israelis after Gilad Shalit’s return. We’ve been burned enough and already paid a heavy price.
Their hearts were pure, their heads were empty.
Reality sucks, but we are still in the middle of a conflict. While it is clear from the video that there are many Palestinians just looking to enjoy themselves and not out to harm Israel, the fact remains that there are plenty who, to say they least, are not charmed by our country. Our boys in green must have had some pretty snazzy moves to keep the Hamas members in attendance from inviting them to dance in an undisclosed location for an undetermined amount of time.
Deep down in their guts, soldiers need to understand that Palestinians are people. Yet until such a time when we can dance Gangnam Style together- without guns and helmets- the patrols will continue, and our soldiers need to remember that there are plenty of people out there wishing to do them harm.
Dancing on a boring patrol is easy. The challenge is translating the humanity of last night’s party into a respect that will be maintained while serving at check-points or canvassing houses. To be vigilant and do your job well, but remember that the people you are poker-facing enjoy PSY just as much as you do. To suspect and respect at the same time.