My parents made Aliyah from Morocco in the 1970s, and after a period in a transit camp, they moved to Jerusalem, where I was born and raised on its beauties and its so-called “complexity”.
Politics was not discussed at home, and my awareness came through my activity in the scouts movement and during my national service year — a period characterized by trying to explore and understand what I was going to do in the army. It was clear to me that until this point I had been protected, and now it was my turn to go and protect the homeland I love so much, completely and fearlessly.
After a year of national service and combat training, I enlisted into the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance platoon and served in Gaza and south of Mount Hebron. There was a clear border in Gaza, and as a youth it was very simple: here are the good guys, there are the bad guys; but south of Mount Hebron this dichotomy didn’t work and the daily interaction with civilians made it crumble. My encounters with arrests, chases of illegal aliens, suppression of demonstrations, checkpoints, searches and medical assistance — these all came with the feeling that both my commander and the politicians were doing nothing to change this reality, so that my friends and I would not go out for the next arrest. Everyone accepted reality as if it were predestined. As a result, my confidence and faith in my actions began to crack. From day to day, for action to action, I felt like “protecting the country” meant betraying the principles on which I was raised and educated in that exact same country.
While I was still a combatant, I decided that on the weekend I wanted to meet the Palestinian civilians who, during the week, were bent to my military rule — but without uniform and without weapons; so they wouldn’t know I’m a soldier; so that I could ask them about their story, and they could hear mine. Following an email titled “Interested in activity,” I had the chance to have that conversation with residents of Susya, and later with other Palestinian movement members.
For the first time after 2.5 years of combatant service, I felt that I had found the most effective way to fulfill my wish of contribution to my country — by listening and honest implementation of “Love Thy Neighbour”. I felt that the meeting, the conversation, and the joint activity are efficient and promote peace more than all the operational activities I had been part in during my service. I found my way to fight for a more democratic, fairer, safer, and more beautiful country.
In Combatants for Peace I found Palestinian partners who want security and peace for us and our children, just as I do. Those who were once enemies, in an instant became partners and a second family. From that moment on I promised myself that the same time, energy, and resources I had put into the army service I would now invest in an attempt to make peace.