ARTLIT: Hallel Rabin (left), a 19-year-old Israeli conscientious objector, walks with her mother Irit Rabin outside a “number six” military prison near Atlit, in northern Israel, upon release from jail for refusing to serve in the Israeli army.—AFP
ARTLIT: Hallel Rabin (left), a 19-year-old Israeli conscientious objector, walks with her mother Irit Rabin outside a “number six” military prison near Atlit, in northern Israel, upon release from jail for refusing to serve in the Israeli army.—AFP

ATLIT: Standing at the gate of an Israeli army jail after being detained for refusing mandatory military service, 19-year-old conscientious objector Hallel Rabin said she was “the happiest person in the world”.

“My lawyer called me this morning and told me, ‘you’re free’,” she said.

Army service is compulsory for most Israeli citizens and while many seek exemptions on various grounds — some arguably less than truthful — Rabin’s case is unusual in that she openly declared herself to be a pacifist.

It’s a position that automatically results in prison time, at least while the merits of a case are under consideration.

Hallel had served a total of 56 days since August at military prison “number six”, and was facing up to 80 more in detention, but was freed on Friday.

But after grilling her at four hearings, an army board finally accepted that her pacifism was sincere and not driven by “political considerations,” which would have landed her more prison time.

The army plays a central role in Israeli society and can impact a young person’s social status and job prospects.

Rabin, who was hugged by her mother as she stepped through the prison gate, described military service as a near inescapable certainty with which young Israelis are expected to comply.

“You grow up and you know you’ll become a soldier. You’ll shut up and do your work.” At age 18 young women are drafted for two years of military service while men must serve at least 32 months.

Ultra-Orthodox women and some men are exempt from the draft, along with Israeli Arabs. To win an exemption some youngsters claim to be studying full-time at a Jewish theological seminary, while others plead mental health problems.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2020

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