Troops cry foul over perfume charm ban
Bottle banBottle ban

Troops cry foul over perfume charm ban

Paratroopers' 'patchouli' jug with dubious history deemed an unethical symbol and offensive to women

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Paratroopers during training in 2007. (Illustrative photo credit: Assi Midan /IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
Paratroopers during training in 2007. (Illustrative photo credit: Assi Midan /IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

A paratrooper battalion was on the verge of mutiny after commanding officers banned the display of the unit’s unofficial talisman for being offensive to women, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

The 202nd battalion of the Paratrooper Brigade, tasked with providing support fire, has for some 30 years adopted a small golden perfume jug as a good luck charm. Soldiers serving in the unit have a tradition of wearing a small jug strung around their necks as a talisman.

Recently, the commander of the paratrooper regiment, Colonel Amir Beraam, ordered that the jug, known in the unit as a “patchouli,” be removed from sight because it does not align with the IDF’s ethical and political correctness standards.

The order to banish the perfume bottles caused a stink among soldiers, who argue it is a tradition spanning decades. According to media reports troopers threw a tantrum when they found out, overturning tables, splashing paint around, sobbing on the phone to their parents at the injustice of the system, threatening to request transfers out of the unit, and making minor disruptions to their daily schedule.

Allegiance to the unit runs long and deep, and when some former paratroopers learned of the developments they contacted the unit’s headquarters to lodge support for the patchouli and its continued service as a talisman.

The controversy stems from the talisman’s dubious history. Tradition has it that during the 1980s, members of the unit intercepted and defeated a terrorist group, killing all of its members except one. The wounded terrorist was found to have a small golden jug tied around his neck which, he told the soldiers, contained a tiny sample of his girlfriend’s most intimate fluids.

The soldiers decided to adopt similar perfume jugs as talismans. Although these days the content of the jug is more likely to be a sample of their girlfriend’s perfume, commanders decided to ban the offensive item.

Despite the disruptions, the IDF spokesman said the unit is continuing to fulfill its obligations of defending the citizens of Israel according to orders and “in the full spirit of the IDF.”

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