Kama od?

Original Script: ?כמה עוד
Phoenetic Script: Kama od?
Transliteration: How much more?
Translation: How much more?

It is forbidden for a soldier who has been in the Israeli army for less than 2 years to utter the phrase “Kama od?” or “How much more?” If he does, he will be punished by the older soldiers. My informant elaborated:

“There’s two words that no solider is allowed to say until they’ve been in the army for two years. And those are ‘Kama od?’ ‘How much more?’  Even if it’s an innocent question, even if you’re asking, oh, like, someone says, “Go pick up these boxes.” You say, ‘Oh, how much more?’ Like you’re asking about the boxes, you’re not asking, you know, in that way. But if you say, ‘How much more?’ you’ll get punished.”

My informant is a 25-year old man who spent four years in the Israeli army. He learned this piece of folklore from other soldiers upon entering the army in 2009. It was observed by all soldiers for all of his four years in the army. He describes the army as like a fraternity, full of strictly-enforced traditions passed down from generation to generation. Much like a fraternity, there is a culture of respect and status that favors those who have spent more time in the organization. According to him, it’s a given that everyone wants to leave. But those who have not worked in the army long have not yet earned the right to complain or yearn for an end to their labors.

My informant is a screenwriter, and I think he enjoys relaying this tradition because it is a detail that helps to describe a fascinating world and culture. I also believe this tradition was developed to help break down new soldiers’ sense of entitlement and individuality. It forces them to accept their situation and work within it without causing a disturbance. I imagine this kind of obedience and commitment from new soldiers is crucial to the functioning of any army. It’s also in keeping with the fraternity aspect of the army that a solider would be punished for saying it even if he wasn’t complaining. As my informant says, the older soldiers are just looking for something to entertain themselves with, and enjoy exercising their authority over the new guys.