Yesterday we visited a Jewish Kibbutz. A focused community who live and work together. They are a small and focused group working on demilitarizing Israel.
Consigning to the Israeli army is part of the education system. We heard about a school trip to the Golan Heights to watch tanks do target practice. From the age of 12, children are encouraged to begin to think about their involvement in the army and what part they might play. Every young person is issued with a military number. The military provide no information for young adults who do not wish to sign up and make the process of refusing conscription very difficult. For some they are the sole bread-winner; a below minimum wage of $100 per month is just not enough (and non-uniformed officers get paid less). Most soldiers are supported by their families. We heard about a young man who took up his right as a refuser at the age of 16. His case took 6 years to go through the tribunal.
'New Profile' work to provide information and support for young people and parents about their rights to refusal. This includes legal aid teams that work with young people to give them legal advice and representation, a parents support group and a youth group and summer camp to give space for young people to ask important questions about. Every military personnel has a profile number, ranging from 21 to 97. 'New profile' propose that non-military persons and refusers should have a new profile and their contribution to society should not be measured only by their involvement in the army.
Some other points of interest. We learnt that the largest industry in Israel is the arms trade; they are the fourth largest supplier of weapons in the world. Their second largest industry is diamonds. It is believed that many of these are conflict diamonds.
My feeling is that the presence of organisations like 'New Profile' are very important in the current climate of a militarized society. I don't know that there is anyone else asking the questions that they're asking. No society should get used to seeing armed soldiers on public transport and on every street corner.