Maya Brand-Feigenbaum, 18, from Kiryat Tivon near Haifa, first declared her refusal to be conscripted into the Israeli army on July 14 and was subsequently sentenced to two prison terms, during which she spent at total of 27 days behind bars. After appearing before the Conscience Committee earlier this week, she was granted an exemption from military service.
Upon leaving prison, Brand-Feigenbaum said: “The decision to refuse military service is one I will never regret because I was true to myself, and yet all along I continued to ask myself questions and examine my stand. I experienced moments of great fear because the hatred people spread is poisonous. This is something I was exposed to in prison and which saddened me: hatred towards entire groups and disrespect that is borne out of fear. I faced comments like ‘all Arabs should die, and if you are on their side you should die too.’ I wish the girls who spoke in this way understood that in fact we are all on the same side.”
In a written declaration, published before she refused to be conscripted, Brand-Feigenbaum wrote: “Decades of dominating another people is compromising the security of the State of Israel. As a woman who loves this country, whose landscape and people are a part of me, I cannot take part in the perpetuation of this situation. I am aware that our reality requires having a military that will act to protect us against real threats. However, at the same time, we also need people who will act to promote a war-free reality. Anti-war activity serves the best interests of the state of Israel and the world, and will result in long-term security. Taking action to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ending the Occupation is in the best interest of all residents of this land – Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.”
On the same day, Yasmin Ricci-Yahav, 18, from Mevasseret Zion near Jerusalem, arrived at the army’s recruitment base and declared her refusal to be conscripted, after which she was sentenced to a first term of ten days of imprisonment.
In her refusal declaration Ricci-Yahav wrote: “I do not question Israel’s right to have and use an army in order to defend itself. I do not wish to detract from the respect and admiration owed to those who came before me and did everything in their power to protect a state that offered a home to millions who needed a safe haven. But the Israeli army nowadays does not function only as a defense force, but as a central tool in the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.”
“We have all experienced,” she continued, “a childhood marred by war and hatred, and we have all grown up in a world where we have been taught to fear and to distance ourselves from the other side. However, I believe there is another way to face the complex reality in which we live. This requires a conversation about alternatives, mutual respect and a desire for change. In addition, I believe that it is the young generation in Israel that is responsible for advancing change. I hope that my refusal will contribute to the struggle to bring about not only a more secure future for Israel, but also a future that inspires pride and is characterized by tolerance and compassion.”