Since I was very young, I have always had so many questions. I always wondered, “Why there are hungry people in this world even though we have enough food to feed everyone? Why do people die from curable diseases just because they can’t pay for medical care? Why is there war even when most people want peace?”
As I look back on history, I see the same issues repeating over and over again. Great emperors trying to gain more land and rule more people. People fighting in ideologic wars over the best religion, culture, and way to rule the population. Leaders fooling their people into believing that the wars would benefit the people, while 1% of the war was paid with money and the other 99% of the war was paid with blood. If these wars weren’t profitable, then there would be no wars. If you look back on history, most wars were pointless and could have been prevented.
Eventually, all empires fell, and most cultures disappeared. Today, it seems pointless to fight over which anciently rooted culture is better, especially when they are not so different from one another.
We must understand that the previous wars were pointless, created nothing but destruction for the greater population. It seems ridiculous that Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome fought over who had the best cultures. However, in our current society, it seems logical to fight over our culture. Why is it so hard to apply previous historical teachings to our current reality? Maybe it’s only possible to have reason when you take the perspective of an astronaut.
I am lucky. I could have grown up in a militaristic society, but I was able to travel every year to a different country, exploring different cultures and perspectives.
I learned about sociology. I learned that no one culture is better than another and I should view every culture using its own values. I learned about psychology. I learned to understand why people behave the way they do. Now, I am more empathetic. I realize people’s dislike for me is based on their own self-esteem, taught ideologies, and societal values. People that learned alongside me did not come to the same conclusions that I did. Their personal conflicts did not allow them to do so.
The army is everywhere. Kindergarten kids are wrapping presents for soldiers, and they play with the plastic guns and violent video games. When they get older, their school will take them to visit army bases and soldiers will come to their schools to speak about “a meaningful military service.”
Once, I decided not to come to one of these events. My head-teacher told me that it was his duty to expose me to different opinions. But I didn’t need my school to expose these concepts to me, these ideas were everywhere: in the newspapers, in our cultural ceremonies, on TV, the topic of many conversations, the names of the streets, and the heroes of our time.
We never get exposed to the opposing point of view. We might be praising the army too much. Maybe our army is doing unethical things, perhaps we should oppose joining the military. Maybe it is easier to recruit 18-year-olds rather than 30-year-olds, because older people who have something to lose would not join.
If my school was truly set on exposing me to the aspects of the army, then why didn’t we ever learn about the Palestinian point of view? The European point of view?
Throughout my twelve years in the educational system, I never heard the word “occupation” or “Palestinian”. If your purpose is to enlighten me, you should go beyond the ideologies of our own culture. I attended one of the other army events to keep the peace between my teachers and me. I was in an outstanding class, and we visited a base of an IDF elite unit. There, we heard about the cause of wars in the Middle East. We watched films about fanatic leaders, poverty, blood, and destruction. It increased the desire of my classmates to join this elite unit. However, it made me want to cry. I felt so much pain. I wanted to stop this pointless bloodshed. I felt empathy towards the “enemy”. I wanted to stop this horror, but even if I dedicated my whole life to solve these problems, I probably wouldn’t be able to stop even 10% of it. This all freaked me out.
I first experienced these feelings during Gadna, a program which simulates basic military training in order to motivate future IDF soldiers. In three days, my thoughts were washed away. I was obeying commands without thinking. During the shooting training, I was the last to fire. The noise of the gunfire freaked me out. Some girls cried. It’s considered normal to let the tenth graders shoot with a real gun. It was the closest to fascism I had ever experienced. These 3 days were too much. I realized there was no way I would be able to do 3 years of mandatory military service. I decided that I needed to find a way out.
I reached out to organizations who helped objectors get out of military service. However, I kept on asking myself, “How would my status and future career be harmed if I did not join the army?” My parents agreed to help me find a way out of my service, only if I went straight to university after high school. I decided, though I knew I would not go straight to university; I had other plans. They wanted me to prove to them that I was serious and able to get accepted into university right after school. They told me to take a psychometric test while I was still in high school. This test analyzes your performance in English, math, and language, and people generally study intensively for three months before taking it. About 50-70% of your application into university is made up of your scores on this test. Yes, this is more than your grades on final exams in high school.
I quit all the activities I participated in, and I studied for the psychometric test for three months. The army gives an exemption to married women, so when I turned 18 years old, I traveled abroad to marry someone who got paid to marry me and who I only met once before. The “ceremony” lasted for 10 minutes, and I went straight back to Israel with my marriage documents. I took a copy of the documents to the army, and I was finally set free.
This action may seem very extreme to most people in my society. For me, it seems excessive to waste the best years of your life hurting your health and performing immoral actions.
I went out the grey way. I know people who made public announcements to spark conversation, who sat in jail for months because they refused to go into the army for political reasons. It hurts the status quo. This is the reality of the last 50 years.
I wonder if one day they will be appreciated like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are. These men and women sat in jail because they were fighting for what they believed in, who used nonviolence against violence and eventually won.
I once dated a guy and told him why I didn’t want to serve. He asked me, “But what if everyone was like you?”
“There would be no wars,” I replied.
“You don’t actually think so, right?” he laughed.
But I did. Our definition for “everyone” was different. His definition included 7 million people; the Israeli society. Mine included 7 billion; the world.
I didn’t want to join this never-ending cycle of bloodshed. I believe that one day we’ll be beyond this horror.
One day, kids will ask us how we created such destruction, how we shot one another for money, ego, and ideas. Isn’t it evident that there are no ideas worth a human life? How, with the crazy development of science, we couldn’t see that we are all one? That every war is a civil war?
How could we waste so many resources on the military, but not provide everyone with an education, food, and health?
If the world would spend less money on military forces, then we would have enough money to send every kid to school.
Maybe one day I won’t be the “naive” one, but the logical one, the one who sees beyond the madness of our times. One day.