I grew up in Rehovot, in a secular, Zionist family of European extraction. The rise of Nazism drove my grandparents to leave Europe and build their home in Israel. I was raised to be a good citizen and to contribute to the state in every way I can.
I was in high school during the Second Intifada, a difficult and scary time. The terror attacks were frequent and painful, my parents forbade me from taking the bus, and a great part of the time we stayed at home. Anyone who looked Arab seemed to be a terrorist to me, someone who wanted to destroy us; I was afraid and angry.
When I was conscripted I was full of motivation and a great desire to contribute in every way and serve in meaningful, combatant positions. The first crack to show in my deep faith were the conscientious objection letters from 12th-graders that appeared in the press, as well as the letters of combatants and pilots who refused to serve in the Territories. This crack raised the notion that maybe it isn’t right to serve in the Territories, but that thought only ripened and deepened at a later time.
I enlisted as a basic-training squad commander and later served as an officer in various positions. I followed orders, felt part of the army, and the rightness of that path overpowered moral questions that came to mind during this activity or another. I remember a period of guarding one of the settlements; I, a young soldier with uniform and weapon, was checking adult Palestinians, my parents’ age. I understood and felt that something was not right here, but I didn’t understand the full meaning of the Occupation until I left the army.
After completing my service, I worked as a counselor at an educational boarding home. The big rift came on the evening of Remembrance Day when my graduated pupils arrived for the ceremony in uniform. All at once the understanding hit me. I saw them, young and beloved and sent into this cycle of death, where they will also have to kill or be killed for the mission.
I was filled with a feeling that something has to change, that there has to be another way; that the Occupation must end. I knew it couldn’t wait anymore and that it was my duty to act.
Combatants for Peace restored my belief that most people on both sides want to live their lives in peace and quiet and with mutual respect. This is a strong belief, and with it is the hope and knowledge that life here can be different.