My name is Shahar and I will be sent to prison today
My name is Shahar Schwartz. I am 18 years old. Today is my enlistment day to the Israeli military. I am going to refuse enlistment and will be sent to jail.
When I was 10 years old, during the Gaza war in 2014, I was home alone when I heard the missile alarm. It wasn't the first time I experienced it in my life but it was the first time I was alone. I live in an old house that doesn’t have a shelter so I sat in the hallway and waited for the alarm to stop. It was the scariest moment of my life. Fortunately for me, I live in central Israel, and wasn't in real danger, but as a child all I felt was great fear.
This is the reality forced on children by the war we’re living in. Children in Gaza do not have shelters or missile defense technology like the iron dome to protect them. For them it's not just one moment of terror before they can go back to normal life - it is their everyday life. Children in the West Bank live in an ongoing war, unlike me who experiences it every few years during a military operation. Israeli kids who live near the border with Gaza also suffer greatly from this reality, which is fully created and operated by the army. Israeli youth join the army when they become adults, after their fear and trauma has turned into hatred towards the other side.
During the summer of 2019, when I was 15, I participated in an Israeli-Palestinian summer camp in the US. There I heard Palestinians my age share how the Israeli military, which is made up of young Israelis like me, oppresses the Palestinian civilian population on a daily basis – by check points, street patrols, home demolitions, and arrests of children. Many Palestinians only know Israelis through the actions of the occupation. Similarly, many Israelis only know Palestinians through media reports about bombings, or through enforcing the occupation as soldiers. The Israeli Military policy is actively preventing any possible change.
I refuse to enlist in the Israeli military because it sustains inequality and oppresses any hope for a positive change. Even though the state of Israel did not officially annex the Palesitnian territories, it effectively controls them and denies Palestinians their rights to independence while trampling their basic human rights. Young Israelis who serve in the army are the ones who actively oppress the Palestinian people and enable settler violence against them. I refuse to partake in this.
Due to my refusal to join the army, the military will interfere with my human rights and imprison me. I am willing to pay this temporary price of freedom, a price Palestinians pay their entire lives, because I refuse to cooperate with the system responsible for it. I am also willing to suffer the social price - to be marked as a traitor in Israeli society, in which I’ve lived my entire life. I believe I am doing the right and moral act in the current political situation. I hope that my actions will influence others who are in a situation like mine. I hope it makes people see the crimes the military is committing and the suffering it causes, and makes them consider what part they want to take in this conflict. I hope to see the day in which Palestinian and Israeli children will not have to live in fear, but will be able to live in peace.