“Thinking about ceremonies prompts many questions for me: What's the reason? To what end? Is it just a means to an end?” This is how Brigadier General Avner Paz Tzuk, the commander of the IDF’s education and youth corps, began his welcome remarks at this year’s fourth Bimat Mandel program, “When Is the Ceremony Over? – On Ceremonies and Their Significance in the IDF”, which took place on May 26, 2014 at the Mandel Leadership Institute. The evening was organized by Mandel IDF Educational Leadership Program fellows – 20 officers ranking from major to brigadier general who deal with educational leadership.
The Mandel Institute’s director, Dr. Eli Gottlieb, opened the platform with formal greetings that were essentially a meta-analysis of formal greetings at similar events.
“A key aspect of leadership is responsibility,” said Dr. Chava Shane, director of the Mandel Institute’s IDF Educational Leadership Program. “What does this mean in the context of ceremonies? Perhaps that we should intervene in a standard ceremony and see if it is possible to change it? Should you select you words carefully?… We can and should see ceremonies as an educational opportunity, to take note of the things we encounter, and pay attention to them especially if we are the ones organizing the ceremony.”
Harel Stanton, a photographer for the magazine Masa Acher, presented ceremonies of a different kind: ceremonies of a religious-mystical nature that he photographed – a whirling dervish ceremony in Konya, Turkey, and Holy Fire ceremony at the end of the Easter holiday in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. He says the interesting thing about the ceremonies is “the impossible tension between a ceremony that must serve the public and provide a collective message and on the other hand, provide space for the individual. There is also the tension between the need for the ceremony to preserve tradition and the need every time to create something different and exciting.”
Major Samuel Boumendil, the Northern Command’s chief education officer, presented his view by asking how we can preserve intimacy in a ceremony in an era of lost intimacy, and how we can avoid being dragged toward kitsch and “over-sentimentality.” “A ceremony,” Boumendil said, “is a work of art that has been placed into a stiff frame…”
Afterward, the participants split into groups where they discussed different aspects of ceremonies: What preparation is there for a ceremony? What happens after the ceremony? Why do we come back to ceremonies? And what is the significance of the ceremonies for outstanding soldiers? At the sessions, the Mandel IDF Educational Leadership fellows presented ideas and initiatives that came up during the course of their learning – an in-depth study of ceremonies in general and specifically in the IDF.