My Draft Resistance – Ten Stops along the Way

When I told my mother I was going to resist the draft because I’m a feminist, she said, “If you’re a feminist, go be a fighter pilot.” Her response didn’t surprise me, but it bothered me a lot. People tend to see feminism as an attempt to prove that “we can do it too.” They don’t get the message that means the most to me: Feminism is a struggle against oppression. All oppression. In the name of that struggle I refuse.

The morning we reported for my interview with the “conscience committee,” we found 20 girls waiting there, with their witnesses. They were really tense. Most of them sat in the hall and read the New Profile guide for women draft resisters. When we helped out with a few explanations they were awed: “Hey, are you from New Profile?!” Turns out a lot of girls get help from us while we don’t even know it.

After my interview with the “conscience committee,” I left the Tel-Hashomer induction base and phoned home. There had been a bombing in Tel-Aviv. We had planned to go somewhere near where the bomb went off, but when we heard about it we dropped our plans. A youth had chosen to commit suicide in order to kill Israelis. If only could have told him about other Israelis who refuse to be his occupiers… I hope if he had known, he would have chosen a different course.

My certificate of exemption from the army arrived in the mail. My parents said they were happy that I was happy. My school friends couldn’t understand what I was so proud of. I felt so alone.

After the second open letter from high school seniors (shministim) was published, Haggai gave an interview on TV. I was watching it as my father walked in. When Haggai was done, my father said, “Traitors, that’s a disgrace. They should be executed.” I reminded him that I was a draft resister, that I was doing just the same thing.

For a while I was very angry with my parents. I felt they would rather have me enlist, even at the price of endangering my life, than have me possibly break the law, or than have me not do what “everyone” does. Now, I’m not angry any more, I know they’re afraid to think of other possibilities.

Before I went to the interview with the “conscience committee,” I was really stressed out. For some reason, I felt they wouldn’t accept my claims. I was even afraid I’d end up in prison. I knew this wasn’t realistic, but I was scared anyway. The committee was demeaning. They didn’t let me explain my views, but they tried to intimidate me and make me slip up. For some reason, it was precisely their style, that I found so familiar from arguing with my classmates, which gave me confidence. Looking back, I believe they had no interest in listening to me and decided to exempt me before I walked into the room (maybe because they knew my name, or the name of one of my witnesses, or knew about my activities).

Ziv said he didn’t understand why my parents had a problem with me not enlisting. It’s not that I’ll go to prison or anything… and besides – what would I do in the army anyway? Be a secretary? My home-room teacher told me that she couldn’t accept men’s draft resistance, but women’s was okay. “The army can make do without girls, but it has to have fighters.”

People my age are preoccupied with the army now. They’re doing fitness training before they enlist, going to aptitude tests, medical examinations, screenings for special units. Naturally, they talk about it all the time. They try to explain it to me, I try to take an interest. But it feels funny all around. I was always different. Now I’m an outsider.

Since word got out that I haven’t enlisted, friends, acquaintances, even complete strangers, keep coming to me. They ask for help, for advice, for counseling and mainly support. Sometimes I can help them myself. Sometimes I refer them to someone else. It feels good to be able to help these people, even a little, even if it’s only emotional support. It means a lot to me to know that they have someone to turn to. Suddenly I feel the scope of the non-enlistment: so many people simply don’t go, just like that, without any fuss. Every time one of them comes to me, I get a bit more optimistic.