Hesder Yehiva students at the IDF Recruitment
Hesder Yehiva students at the IDF Recruitment Hesder yeshiva organization

As hundreds of Israeli teens joined the IDF in its March recruitment on Sunday, a group of about 50 youths sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declaring that they would not serve in the IDF. In the letter, the youths said they were not serving because of their “opposition to the military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

One of the youths who signed the letter said that she is refusing to join the army because “military activity drives us away from finding solutions for living peacefully with the Palestinians, and for justice and peace.” Another signatory wrote that “the army serves the rich and powerful in society and not the citizens, who are just a tool.”

The letter said that the youths were acting “in solidarity with hareidi and Arab youths – Druze and Christians, many of whom who are in jail right now. We call on all of Israeli youth to rethink their commitment to IDF service. As far as we are concerned, defending our society does not mean occupation discrimination, racism, or violence. We believe in the power of the citizenry to change the situation and make it more just, free and fair.”

The letter was in sharp contrast to the scene at the IDF Induction Center in Tel Hashomer Sunday morning, when the March induction to the IDF's combat units was in full swing. Well over 1,000 youths – mostly from the Religious-Zionist community, and students of Hesder yeshivas and religious pre-military academy – danced and sang religious-themed songs as they embarked on what they considered to be a most important mitzvah (commandment) – defending the Land of Israel and its inhabitants from being harmed by the country's many enemies. The atmosphere was one of motivation to serve and protect the People and Land of Israel.

The recruitment did not garner the same headlines that the 50 or so youths who sent Netanyahu the letter did. In a statement, the far-left Yesh Gvul organization expressed its support for the letter, saying that it “supports anyone whose democratic and humanist values drove him to refuse to take part in occupation and repression of the Palestinian people. We are proud of the young people who refuse to take part in oppression and are calling on the government of Israel to sit with the government of Palestine and end the occupation,” the organization said.