My refusal - Tal Matalon

March 31st, 2001.

There's a big math test soon. I'm going over to my tutor's by bus. On my way, I hear the news on the radio. There was a suicide attack in Haifa. In Haifa?! Of all places, in Haifa?? But there are never suicide attacks here. And it was near the mall. Everybody in my school go to that mall. And on the beginning of the holiday… quick, phoning all my friends. Everybody's alright. Relief. It's okay to study math. I arrived at my tutor's. After I finished, my father called me and offered to drive me home. Afternoon. I'm home alone with my little brother. And then Efrat calls. "Remember Adi? That was in our class till the middle of year 11? She was killed in the suicide attack." Adi?! What?! What is she talking about?? I didn’t even say anything, just hung up and started crying. I called Netta and told her. She came over to my place and we sat down and tried to think what we're supposed to do now. Then Barel called. I was just trying to phone someone else. Netta answered the phone and suddenly she's sitting on the floor in my living room, screaming. Ofer was killed too. Ofer. He studied architecture. I can't remember one person that didn’t like him. We went to his best friend's house. His whole class was there, and most people from our year, too. I sat with some of them in the kitchen. Everything was full of cigarette smoke and photo albums from school trips. And then one of them said that all Arabs should be killed. And when everyone agreed, he went on and said that after we finish the Arabs off, we should kill all lefties too. Maybe even before, so that they don't interfere. Only one of them noticed me sitting there and told him to shut up. And I said nothing.

Then we went to the restaurant where the suicide attack was. We lit candles and brought flowers and sat and talked. And then Aviv asked me if I'm still going to refuse. And I said yes. Because it was obvious to me that yes, that…because it just proves it even more, right? If people die, it should be stopped, right? More people shouldn’t die, should they? But Aviv already stopped listening. For good, actually, because he never talked to me again. And the others, too. It was like nobody talked to me that night. Only to ask me to move a bit, or to relight a candle that was blown out, or to ask for a cigarette. Everybody was sitting together, hugging and crying, and I sat and cried alone. For Ofer, and for Adi, and... It's terrible to say, but for me too. Even Netta was distant that night.

People were starting to leave at around 2am. We stayed there, me and three others. Not close friends of mine. We stayed there all night, keeping the candles from being blown out by the wind, relighting the ones that were blown out, and talking. About everything. Just not about the military. And the occupation. Until one of them said that if before he wanted to join the army, now he wants it even more. To get back at them for Ofer. At 6am we walked away, not before we saw at least four people getting into the ruined restaurant to get a free bottle of Coke, and not before we ran out of tears and things to say. I slept over al Alon's place.

April 11th, 2001.

Have to get up early, pick Mor up and go to Tel Aviv. Today I'm meeting the committee that decides if I convince them, if I have a conscience.

I get into the room, and it's full of empty chairs and tables. And three men, in suits, and one woman soldier with a typewriter. I sit in front of them.

What are you here for?

You know what I'm here for. You called me over here.

Yes. But why are you here.

Because I'm a pacifist, which means I disapprove of violence, so I can't be part of a violent organization.

The Israeli military is violent??

What do you mean. Of course it isn't violent. It helps children cross the road. I don’t want to serve because I hate children. And roads.

Any military is violent. By definition.

Hm. So you support the terrorist attacks done by Palestinians.

No. I object to any use of violence. By any side of any conflict. No matter who, how or what. Any violence.

But the Palestinian terrorism. That you support.

No. a-n-y- k-i-n-d- o-f- v-i-o-l-e-n-c-e.

And what if someone you knew gets hurt in a suicide attack?

Two friends of mine were killed in a suicide attack

Two friends of mine were killed in a suicide attack

Hm. And you don't feel guilty?