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I refuse to serve in the Israeli military

She says she loves her land and her people and explains why her conscience led her to choose prison over the army
Tamar Alon, left, and Tamar Ze'evi (Hila Aloni Ohayon/Mesarvot/Dor Heimberg)
Tamar Alon, left, and Tamar Ze'evi (Hila Aloni Ohayon/Mesarvot/Dor Heimberg)

My name is Tamar Zeevi, I’m 19 years old and I’m from Jerusalem. I like hiking in Israel and in the world, and I’m interested in sustainability and education. On November 16th, my supposed recruitment date, I have refused to join the Israeli military, choosing to pay the price that the army demands that I pay for my conscience. The choice not to enlist means to take responsibility for my actions and their meaning, drawing a moral line that I’m not willing to cross, and actively resisting a government and a policy that violates human rights and fuels violent and cruel reality.

My process of dealing with the recruitment to the army began a few years back, around questions about the meaning of serving in the military, the duty and the responsibility I carry as an Israeli, and my difficulty with the IDF’s policies in the occupied territories and the occupation as a whole. I thought a lot about the topic, often talked and consulted friends, teachers and family, and fluctuated a lot between the different arguments, stories and expectations.

During the last two years of high school, I studied abroad in an international school in India (UWCMC), together with friends from around the world, and it was a challenging, enriching and amazing experience. There is no doubt that the distance from Israel has played a meaningful role in the process of questioning the policies in Israel, and mainly taught me that military enrollment is a choice and not necessarily the obvious route. People around me pushed me to critically investigate the reality in my homeland, and in classes I was exposed to texts that imbued in me an understanding of my responsibility for this reality, and my power to change it.

On one hand, it is my legal and social duty, the role I was always oriented towards and expected to perform, and the obligation to participate in maintaining the security of my home and the people who are dear to me. But on the other hand, are a childhood and a life in the shadow of terrorist attacks and wars real security? What about the safety of people beyond the walls? Am I, as a part of the nation that controls their lives, also responsible for their safety? Where is the line at which one should stop cooperating, and was it already passed? These questions stirred in me in a hard and difficult way. Sometimes I reacted defensively, and sometimes with powerlessness and frustration.

All of this was not enough to convince me to deviate from the expected, normative route, and the choice to serve in the military was my default. I returned to Israel and started a service year in Sayarut (Green Horizons), the youth movement I had been a member of since 6th grade. My years in Sayarut, during which I had explored the landscapes of Israel, tasted its soil and inhaled its views were those that planted in me the feeling that I am the daughter of this land, belong to it and love it. Acclimatizing back in Israel wasn’t easy, and this time, living in this state with more critical eyes, and both international and local points of view, brought back the question of enlistment in a more immediate and real way.

I came to realize that recruitment is my first real confrontation with the occupation and the conflict. This is the place and time in which I must make a choice. Am I willing to take responsibility for the oppression and discrimination that lives on our land? Am I going to take part in the scary system that differentiates between humans, prefers some over others, and feeds the circle of violence, hate and fear? Thus, in one defining moment, I understood that I won’t. I am not willing to support a situation in which two nations live in fear of each other, and pay such a heavy price for decades. Out of love to the land and to the people who live on it, I want to believe, and believe that there is a different way, and change is possible.

Fear is the most serious disease that exists in this country. It is horribly contagious, passed from generation to generation, and mainly breeds ugly side effects such as alienation, hatred and violence. Fear feeds best on uncertainty, and, in the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel and the military make sure that nothing in life is to be taken for granted. Getting up in the morning with fear and going to bed with it is not a way of life that I am ready to take part in conserving, particularly when the meaning of it is increasing and enlarging the problem itself.

We will break the cycle of fear and violence only when we open our heart and mind, look at what is happening around us, beyond the physical and social walls and let ourselves feel the reality and pain of all the people for whom this country is home. Once we all will agree to understand and accept that this is reality, I want to believe that the way of empathy, tolerance and compromise will be our only choice.

I know, it is a complicated matter, the hatred and the violence exist on both sides and are dangerous, and we shouldn’t be naive when examining this reality. Nevertheless, we must not forget the hope that it could be better here. We must not accept the acts being done in our name behind the wall that hides and separates, and this is my responsibility and yours. There is no one way to change, to be honest, there are infinity ways, and everyone will chose what they can do for our world.

The choice to refuse serving in the Israel Defense Forces is one of the milestones in my path to make life in this homeland a life of peace, freedom and fraternity.

About the Author
Tamar Ze'evi (19, Jerusalem) recently completed a year of service with Sayarut (Green Horizons), a youth-led organization in which she has participated since the 6th grade. Ze'evi enjoys traveling throughout Israel and the world and is interested in sustainability and education. She loves the land of Israel, but is unwilling to tolerate the wrongdoings of the occupation committed by the State of Israel. In refusing conscription, Ze'evi has chosen to take responsibility for her actions, drawing a moral line by actively resisting a government and a policy that violates human rights and fueling violent and cruel reality.
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