Murphy's Law: April 9, 2004


Can you exorcise accidents that occur while repairing tanks? This was tried recently in Israel. The military tends to pay a lot of attention to safety during peacetime operations. Military equipment is built for killing, and can be dangerous to operate. The Israeli army tank repair base at Tel Hashomer has had three of its workers killed in accidents in the past year. That never happened before, and the usual exhortations, and implementing new work practices, didn't seem to be helping. But some of the base personnel had another idea. Many of them had gotten into Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). So two Kabbalah savvy rabbis were called in and held a special ceremony. Together with a hundred base staff, the rabbis led prayers and scripture readings to try and break the "curse" on the base that was causing the fatal accidents. It's too soon to tell if the ceremony had the desired effect, but some senior officers were heard muttering about "voodoo" and "witchcraft." 

Kabbalah has been around for a long time, and apparently showed up at about the same time Christianity did. Unlike the Christians, who split off from Judaism to become a new religion, the Kabbalah practitioners remained Jewish, although regarded warily by many more orthodox Jews. Kabbalah has undergone a revival in the past few decades, but is still considered a bit "New Age" by many Jews. Then again, soldiers faced with great danger tend to become more religious and superstitious. Other religions are known to call in clergy to bless, or exorcise, weapons and encourage the troops with supercharged prayers. Maybe it will work for tank maintenance technicians as well. As many a soldier in the combat zone has quipped, "whatever works." This was apparently the official position of the Israeli defense ministry when asked to comment on the incident. 


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