In Military Prison, No Such Thing as Stepping Up to Protect a Friend

During my first prison term, a few days after my arrival, a girl – Nufar was her name – was “received.” I remember her very well, even though in my numerous prison terms I have met lots of names and faces. There are four head counts a day. We stand in threes and after your name is called, you are supposed to scream, roar – “Yes, Sergeant! ” about turn and stand at ease. This was Nufar’s first day, and in her first head counts, just before supper – she did not shout the response loud enough.

Vigil near Military Prison 6 in solidarity with Tair Kaminer and Omri Baranes

Vigil near Military Prison 6 in solidarity with Tair Kaminer and Omri Baranes (Photo: Yesh Gvul)

When you don’t shout loud enough, the commanders turn you back around and tell you to shout again and again and again until they’re satisfied. Every time you don’t answer loud enough they get more and more annoyed and the entire staff, hovering around the company during head counts, begin to approach you. That day two commanders were already standing around Nufar – the sergeant and the deputy company commander, and they were both yelling at her. Nufar’s voice, as a natural reaction to pressure and fear, only got weaker. I could hear the tears choking her up while the two chose to continue to close in on her.

After several more times, when she was no longer able to respond and her tears were flowing, they chose to give her “the red line” treatment. Girls here also call it the “humiliation line” and there are myths aplenty about it, because surveillance cameras don’t operate there and the commanders can do whatever they please. As they told Nufar there, “This is my yard and here you play by my rules.” What exactly happened to her there, I don’t know.

That day I didn’t step up to defend Nufar. I wanted to, I was aching to do it, but didn’t dare. I was new myself at the time and was really scared. Since then I have learned how things work here, and no longer walk around in a fright as I was in my first prison days. But I think I’ve developed something much worse – I’ve realized there is no such thing here as stepping up to protect a friend or, in other words, to mind “anyone’s business but one’s own.” It will not help her and will only get you in trouble. So somehow, although it is very unlike me, I’ve gotten used to keeping silent in prison. Every single time my heart breaks anew at the sound of the shrieks from “the humiliation line” and wants to act to protect those alternating victims, or at least give them a reassuring hug afterwards, but that too is forbidden.

In my life on the outside I do not hold still – I stand by the victims even if I have to pay the price, but I really and truly have no mental stamina to do this here in jail. Perhaps because I have not experienced this myself and actually been tied to the stake myself. But even if I were, I don’t think I could cope. You stand there facing four or five women, sometimes one man too, and they all expend all their negative energy screaming at you with all their might. I have yet to see someone come out of this experience not broken, crying her heart out.

I personally have so far been treated alright by the commanders, and I have never felt harassed by them. Perhaps this is the only reason I can come back here again and again and continue refusing conscription, struggling for change. But today something else broke me: We faced each other- the commander and I, talking, and she gave me instructions and asked whether she was being understood. I answered again and again, “Yes, commander.” But in prison you must not look the commanders in the eye, just keep looking straight ahead. So we stood there, two girls, nearly the same age, and did not look each other in the eye.

I am trying not to give in to anger and remember that the commanders here are victims, too. The army is what places them in a role whereby to survive they must not look us in the eye, to make sure we don’t remember that facing us are girls our age. Their environment gives them the feeling that the best commander is the one who manages to be the meanest. This is how they defend their country. But it’s not their fault, for in prison, as at the checkpoints, the outposts and on the battlefield, we are after all just boys and girls.

Tair Kaminer


Two conscientious objectors were sentenced last week to a new stretch in military prison.  One of them, Tair Kaminer, 19-year Israeli from Tel-Aviv, who has served so far 170 days in military prison. The additional objector is Omri Baranes, 18 from Rosh Ha’ayin, who was sentenced in April for the first time after she announced her refusal to join the IDF. A demonstration in solidarity with Kaminer and Baranes will be held at Military Prison 6, near Atlit on Saturday, July 7 at 12:30.

The event in Facebook:

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