Turning 18 in Israel is turning into a weapon of war

Today is my 18th birthday. That means that, in Israel’s eyes, I’m now a weapon, a malleable device for it to use to further its military goals. 

From now on, I am no longer a simple citizen of Israel, but its subject. Everything I do must benefit it. 

I’m eighteen years old today, which means that in Israel, I’m a degree less free than I was yesterday. For many of my peers, this is cause for celebration. Even if my fellow 18-year-olds are dying to finish with the military as fast as they can, it’s because they are bored, and not because they know they are assisting in the perseverance of a perpetual circle of violence. Not me. 

Maybe it is because I so strive to be different, but as I learned more and more about Israel and what its military, the IDF has done beginning with the War for Independence, I simply felt I cannot belong to such a murderous organization. 

Today, I’m having lunch with my grandparents in downtown Budapest. They were the ones fearing for my life the most after my parents after they learned I’d have to serve in the IDF. No one around us in the restaurant will know that in mere months, I was supposed to start killing Palestinian people at any given moment I or my would-be commander deemed it appropriate. It just doesn’t feel right, to have such a big influence on others’ lives.

But it’s not only Palestinians I feel sorry for. I feel sorry for the tens, even hundreds of thousands of young Jewish Israelis, who, from the very start of their lives, are taught to do everything but respect the people living to their east. 

In Hungary, which I still call home, young people are not required to enlist, but instead are faced with other challenges, challenges to their freedom. Young Hungarians of today are suffocated by a repressive regime, and most of them like to imagine their futures outside their country of birth. 

I would be facing different hardships, if my parents had not decided to pursue what they saw as a better life for me and my brother in Israel, and had stayed in our homeland. I wouldn’t have been expected to take part in the team effort, as Israelis may call it, and wouldn’t have had to grapple with the possibility of participating in the IDF’s activities that affect Palestinians’ lives in such a negative way. 

Yesterday was the last day of my underageness, and I thought of so many Palestinian children who had their lives taken away from them, and who had not had the privilege (shouldn’t be one) of turning 18. If I had been born as a Palestinian, maybe I wouldn’t even be alive today. 

I turned 18 years old and the rest of my life is supposed to begin today. If it wasn’t for luck, for my mental health-based ineligibility to serve in the IDF, I’d have to go to prison. 

And so many Israeli kids do. They make the choice I didn’t have to. They go to prison instead of enlisting. 

The real props belong to them, those who fight for their values in a place that gives no room for them. In a place that oppresses them, that puts them in prison for standing up for themselves. Is this a democracy? Really?

Even in a place like Israel, where people value honesty above unnecessary pleasantries, there is a red line for honesty and it stands between real fighters, who resist enlistment and between cowards who hide behind a flag. 

About the Author
Fred is an 18-year-old writer sharing his many thoughts about American and Israeli politics. He was born in Budapest and since he was 11, he is also an Israeli citizen.
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