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The young Israelis who are risking prison time rather than fighting for the IDF in Gaza

**
Sofia Orr:
"I decided to refuse before the war because of [Israel's military] occupation … in the West Bank," she says.
"That was enough reason for me to say that this will never lead to any solution and we have to work on a real solution, which will be peace, equal rights [for] everyone who lives here."
***
"We won't be able to bring back our lost ones by killing and murdering other innocent children in Gaza." -Ariel 



The young Israelis who are risking prison time rather than fighting for the IDF in Gaza
2/04/2024
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: Eighteen-year-old Sofia Orr is about to be sent to jail for refusing to fight in the Israel-Gaza war.
The teen is standing outside Israel's military enlistment office near Tel Aviv, with her enlistment order in one hand, and a backpack with some clothes in the other.
Sofia doesn't know how long she'll be imprisoned for, but the thought of betraying her morals scares her more than the thought of a prison cell.
"It's a scary thing, I'm nervous," she says.
"But I also think that it's a very powerful thing — it's the power of saying no, of standing by my values and fighting for that voice of peace and a voice of love.
"I'm doing it, at the end of the day, as an act of love for people, all people, who live from the river to the sea." 
Sofia is what's known as a refusenik – a person who refuses to serve in the Israeli military.
The state of Israel requires every citizen over the age of 18 to serve in the military for a minimum of 24 months for women, and 32 months for men.
Religious women, married secular women, Palestinian citizens of Israel and people deemed medically or mentally unfit are exempt from compulsory service.
But everything changed on October 7 last year when Hamas-led militants stormed across the border, killing hundreds of civilians and taking 253 hostages back into Gaza. 
'Violence only leads to more violence'
After the Hamas-led attacks, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) summoned 360,000 reservists soldiers to join the country's fight.
Thousands of young Israelis living overseas rushed home for reserve duty in such great numbers the national carrier El Al put on extra flights to deal with the influx.
And while some others have refused to join the fight, the IDF hasn't revealed the number of objectors since October 7.
Sofia's objections are purely moral and she will be deemed a contentious refuser.
"I decided to refuse before the war because of [Israel's military] occupation … in the West Bank," she says.
"That was enough reason for me to say that this will never lead to any solution and we have to work on a real solution, which will be peace, equal rights [for] everyone who lives here."
Sofia says the war made her decision even more important to her.
"Violence only leads to more violence. And I can't stand for that," she says. 
"And I have to raise a voice against it, both for myself to make that stand, and … [for] young people in Israel, to show them that this is an option." 
As Sofia waits to enter the enlistment office, she is flanked by a small group of anti-war protesters, who chant slogans of encouragement.
"We don't shoot, we don't massacre, we refuse to be murderers," they yell.
"There is no difference between blood — we are all humans".
'How can you come out against the state?' 
Before the war, refuseniks in Israel were stigmatised, but Sofia says the decision is now seen as a national betrayal.
"I've been called a traitor, I've been called a self-hating Jew, saying I should be raped or killed," she says.
"And I've been called … naive or ungrateful."
Young men and women in Israeli military uniforms gather to watch the small crowd of anti-war demonstrators, some of them sneering at the objectors and others laughing in amusement.
One young Israeli woman, Almaz, shouts from a nearby bus stop that Sofia's behaviour is "contemptuous".
"I think this is horrible, especially considering we are going through a war right now," Almaz says.
"I was a combat soldier who has done reserve duty since October 7. How can you come out against the state?
"There's nothing sadder than that, to see people who go out and their people and try to justify pacifists or not enlisting into the army, especially in these difficult hours we are in. It's just sad."
But Sofia says she sees the situation differently.
"The IDF is escalating the situation and not solving it, and only making sure that more people get killed in this cycle of violence," she says. 
"I want the best for everyone and I'm doing it for the security of everyone and I'm doing it as an act of solidarity."
Ariel has been shunned by his family 
Ariel Davidod is another refusenik. He objects to Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories and serving in the military has been a long-held view.
But when he was called up for enlistment on October 10 he was proud to refuse. 
He received an exemption without having to go to jail – but he doesn't know why.
"I was ready to serve my sentence in jail for not cooperating with the war," he says.
"From the beginning of the war, I realised that there is no way of serving in the army. Even through the worst trauma the Israeli people have experienced, violence won't be the solution.
"We won't be able to bring back our lost ones by killing and murdering other innocent children in Gaza."
Ariel says his decision has been met with hostility from strangers, and he's been shunned by his family.
"My family is really right wing — it is tough," he says.
"Many connections have been cut, and I don't speak to many members of my family.
"It is tough on holidays. But I'm willing to lose some of those privileges because I see how important what I'm struggling for is."
Sofia learns her fate before a military judge 
Back at the enlistment office, Sofia enters the building to learn her fate, while her crowd of supporters shout "I love Sofia".
Once inside, she is taken before a military judge who sentences her to 20 days in prison.
When she finishes her prison term, the IDF can order her to present for military duty again.
If she refuses, she'll likely face another jail sentence.
But Sofia is prepared and says she won't stop resisting the Israeli law.
"I want to advance this peace, to show that this change is possible and it's important to work for it," she says. 
"And for this, it's important to me to come here and refuse, in solidarity and with empathy that is not limited by any nationality.
"It's not a situation of us against them, where someone can beat someone else."

 














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