Word of the Day Jerrycan: The One Thing Israelis Owe to the Nazis

If it hadn't been for the British Mandate, Israelis would have called the ubiquitous water container 'Wehrmachtkanister.'

David Sarna Galdi.
David Sarna Galdi
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David Sarna Galdi.
David Sarna Galdi

Zionist soldiers drinking out of Nazi water bottles? Perhaps it sounds stranger than fiction, but spend any time in the Israeli military or on a Birthright Israel tour of the country during the summer and you'll soon realize that it's as common as an Israeli driving a Volkswagen.

A jerrycan is a plastic container which the army and Israeli tour guides use for carrying water. The English name was simply imported into Hebrew slang during the British Mandate, when the English-speaking colonial soldiers encountered a heat and dryness they'd probably never dreamed of in their worst nightmare. Not since finishing their stint in India, at least.

The jerrycan ("Wehrmachtkanister" in German) was originally designed using steel, for use by the German army, to transport 20 liters of fuel for military purposes. The name jerrycan was contrived by British soldiers during World War II, using the derogatory nickname they used for Germans, "Jerry."

And just like mechanized warfare, rock-hard discipline and Moshe Dayan, jerrycan made its way from the British army to its Israeli counterpart, and from there to widespread use.

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