THE SHMINISTIM TOUR. Israeli women speak their conscience • 9/13 to 10/10/2009

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Maya Yechieli Wind, 19, grew up in Jerusalem during the second Intifada, where she was raised in a secular home but educated in religious schools. Her first experience with conflict resolution was at age fifteen in “Face to Face” – a dialogue group for Israeli and Palestinian youth. maya-yellow-500Later she became involved in various co-existence initiatives in the West Bank. She joined the Shministim in December 2008 and refused to serve in the Israeli army. She spent several weeks in detention and forty days in military prison and was exempted in March 2009. Today she works for Rabbis for Human Rights, and guides political tours in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. She also co-leads the Jerusalem dialogue youth group of New Profile, the feminist movement for the demilitarization of Israel.

This is the statement she read before going to jail:

At first, like many other Israeli citizens, I too could not bring myself to confront or criticize the Israeli military’s immoral actions. I realize that this difficulty originated from my sense of identification with soldiers my own age, to whom I could relate. Today it is precisely this realization that leads me to refuse to serve. I cannot recognize the humanity of Israelis but not that of Palestinians. It is because of my deep sense of commitment and responsibility to the community in which I grew up that I am refusing to contribute to this cycle of bloodshed.

We can no longer term our military a “Defense Force.” A defense force does not conquer lands of another people. A defense force does not assist in the building of settlements on those lands. A defense force does not permit settlers to throw stones at Palestinian civilians, nor does it deny them access to their lands and source of livelihood. None of these are acts of a defense force.

The occupation has no defensive advantages. On the contrary, the pointless occupation of millions of people only leads to radicalization of opinions, hatred and the escalation of violence. Violence is a cycle that feeds into itself. This cycle will not stop until someone stands up and refuses uncompromisingly to take part in it.

This is what I am doing today.

My views are also relevant to the current operation in Gaza. One form of violence cannot stop another. This current violence is the result of decades of ongoing occupation of the territories and sieges on Gaza since the disengagement. I mourn the unnecessary deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Yet again we have chosen war.

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