TEL AVIV – With the Passover holiday underway, the IDF has just finished a four-week-long amnesty program in which former soldiers are urged to return IDF property they have kept – with no questions asked.
Jewish tradition demands a thorough spring cleaning prior to the festival of Passover, so it seemed like a good time for the military to recoup all of its lost uniforms, weapons, and ammunition.
A total of 1.3 million pieces of ammunition were returned by former Israeli soldiers along with tens of thousands of other items owned by the military. According to CBC News, some of the returned gear dated back nearly 70 years, to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
“I do not believe people take it for criminal reasons,” said Lt.-Col. Victor Lisha, an IDF logistics commander. “It’s really just to remember rifles they had with them … and they took it home to show their children and to tell the story.
“But that’s still against the law and they must return it,” Lisha added.
The military swag included 457 weapons, including rifles and pistols, 1.3 million pieces of ammunition, 220 pairs of binoculars and night vision glasses, and 27,681 articles of what the military terms “general equipment,” which includes uniforms, boots, sleeping bags and tents.
There were reports in the Israeli media that a former veteran returned a stolen army jeep that he had painted black and driven on back roads to avoid detection. However, at the end of the amnesty program, the military said it had received no such item.
“I didn’t see a jeep,” Lisha said. “But if it does come, we’ll be waiting for it with open arms.”
The tradition of spring cleaning stems from the Bible, which describes how the Israelites didn’t have time for their bread to rise when they were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Because of the flatbread the Israelites ate in a hurry, any ownership of leavened bread is forbidden over Passover – hence the requirement to clean one’s home from top to bottom.
Jewish West Bank resident Leah Ahroni told CBC News that the festival is also a chance to enact some “spring cleaning for the soul.”
“Passover is this time to stop, think about life. And really understand that I can really take a fresh start at any point,” Ahroni said.
“And let go of the things that are not working for me. And really go ahead with things that work better, reach for new goals.”