Shministim, a Hebrew word that means 12th graders, is now the name of a movement of Israeli teenagers who are refusing to serve the Israeli army and become part of the occupation of Palestinian lands.

These conscientious objectors reject taking part in war and destruction and want to show their Palestinian peers that there is still hope, and together they can bring about change for a better, peaceful future.

Under Israeli law, refusal to perform military service means spending between 21 and 28 days in prison.

Or Ben-David, for example, has been sentenced to her third prison term, which ends on January 21, and is likely to be imprisoned again.

One teenager I spoke to told me that prison is not the only price they pay; they also face the rejection of society after they take such action, starting with their parents.

She noted that it is easy to get a medical report to avoid military service like many do, but her colleagues chose the harder way. They do not want to serve in the army because they want to send a message that they are against the occupation of Palestine and the continuous bloodshed.

In Israel, just like in Palestine, there is a new generation that is willing to live in peace together. They are working hard to spread their ideas and beliefs that peace is the only solution for a better future.

Both sides should work together, struggle together, go to jail together and stand up for freedom together to show that they are a generation of peace, and extremists from both sides should understand that war, hate, occupation and more killing will lead us to nowhere.

We need to know that not all Israelis are extremists. There is a minority in Israel that is working for peace. They are demonstrating against settlements and the separation wall. They are calling in a loud voice for ending the occupation and giving Palestinians their rights.

Hopefully this circle of peace activists in Israel will grow bigger than the extremist right-wing government that is currently ruling the country.

But we need to know one thing – Palestinians can, and should, participate in expanding this circle. Both Palestinian and Israeli activists should work together. We also have some duties to perform in order achieve the freedom we want and the peace we are looking for.

Wasseem Al Kury,
1 January 2010