Who let the cat into the cream? Or less metaphorically – who let the terrorist into the army base? Heads will roll, but chances are they won't be high-ranking heads. They will be the crania of the lowly shin gimmel.
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Shin gimmel is Israeli army parlance for "the guard at the periphery." It is an abbreviation of two words, shin for shomer (guard) and gimmel for gader (actually, fence). Think, more simply, of the guys at the gate to the base who won't let you in.
All army bases and buildings have a shin gimmel, to whom you present your credentials or whatever it takes to get into the place. In fact, there are usually at least two. They're just ordinary soldiers in regular service, or possibly reserve soldiers, guarding the place. They are low in rank and pretty powerless, hierarchically speaking at least.
But shin gimmel has become shorthand in general vernacular, not just Israeli army slang, for scapegoat.
When all is well, success has many fathers. But when things go wrong, responsibility and accountability tend to roll downhill. The minister doesn’t resign, the general doesn't commit hara-kiri, the school principal doesn't take the lesson to heart. They shunt the blame to an underling.
Whose fault was it that the town burnt down because there was no fire-fighting equipment? Whose fault that the base was penetrated? That the entire class flunked science, math and basket-weaving? Not mine, the disgraced dog for a day wails in vain - "I'm just the shin-gimmel."
Shoshana Kordova is on leave. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.