In Israel, serving in the military is required, for both men and women. I think the requirement is 2 years, but I'm not sure about that. This has been part of the Israeli culture for many decades.
Today, I was introduced to Omer Goldman, via Ed Asner. There is a new generation of young Israelis standing up to the government. They believe in a better, more peaceful future for themselves and for Israelis and Palestinians, and they are refusing to join the Israeli army. They're in jail, holding strong against immense pressure from family, friends and the Israeli government.
Omer's own words:
I first went to prison on September 23 and served 35 days. I am lucky, after 2 times in jail, I got a medical discharge, but I'm the only one. By the time you read this, many of my friends will be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in, over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military service for the Israeli army.
I grew up with the army. My father was deputy head of Mossad and I saw my sister, who is eight years older than me, do her military service. As a young girl, I wanted to be a soldier. The military was such a part of my life that I never even questioned it.
Earlier this year, I went to a peace demonstration in Palestine. I had always been told that the Israeli army was there to defend me, but during that demonstration Israeli soldiers opened fire on me and my friends with rubber bullets and tear-gas grenades. I was shocked and scared. I saw the truth. I saw the reality. I saw for the first time that the most dangerous thing in Palestine is the Israeli soldiers, the very people who are supposed to be on my side.
When I came back to Israel, I knew I had changed. And so, I have joined with a number of other young people who are refusing to serve - they call us the Shministim. On December 18th, we are holding a Day of Action in Israel, and we are determined to show Israelis and the world that there is wide support for stopping a culture of war. Will you join us? Please, just sign a letter. That's all it takes.
Everyone should have the choice to serve or to not serve. Everyone should have the choice of promoting peace without resorting to war.
Jewish Voice for Peace is the U.S. group heading things up for the Shministim. Sign the petition here if you want to stand up for Omer and those like her.
I never took my right to stand without my hand over my heart during the Pledge of Allegience for granted. NEVER. In fact, the very first fight Keith and I ever had was about that very subject. My religion forbade me certain things, and I was grateful that others had given me those rights so I didn't have go to prison. JWs in other countries weren't always so lucky. Hell, during the draft days, many of the JWs DID go to prison for refusing to serve in the military. Or, like my father, used the loopholes in the system to keep their names from coming up.
I think the draft has it's place, honestly. And the next time it is used, I hope they start including women. I don't think it's fair in this day and age to exclude them.
But I don't think military service should be mandentory all the time. Only when it's needed. And everyone should have the choice, no matter what country they live in. Everyone should have the choice to stand up for what they believe in.