“I was told I wouldn’t have to go to the military by the time I grew up"

Gili Benita

2021 - Ongoing

Israel; Jerusalem, Israel; Tel Aviv, Israel

"I was told I wouldn't have to go to the military by the time I grew up," Yasmin, 22, an IDF objector who spent 74 days in a military jail, said to me in an interview. A phrase that many Israelis have grown upon and heard countless times in their childhood.

Since created in 1949, The Israeli Defense Service Law mandates every Israeli citizen to recruit to the IDF. However, teenagers across Israel have objected to the national draft for pacifist and political reasons for many years, resulting in imprisonment in a military prison. Furthermore, in recent years, the number of discharges due to mental health-related issues has significantly increased.

I propose a portrait series, followed by sound interviews and archival footage, of young Israelis who have objected to the mandatory national draft and former soldiers who had to be discharged due to mental health issues. In the project, I want to expose the marginalized subject in Israel, which is considered taboo, to question how the mandatory draft affects Israeli youth and whether it's still relevant?

In 2016, I was also discharged from the IDF after battling with depression and anxiety caused by my service. Six years after, I still deal with the consequences of my service. Therefore, I want to incorporate self-portraiture into the project.

I visioned this project to be a published photo essay and an exhibition, both in Israel and abroad. The photos will contain intimate portraits of each collaborator in their designated safe and private space. Furthermore, each session with a collaborator will be accompanied by a recorded interview, diving into their personal stories and the reasons for objecting to the draft and leaving the IDF. The visuals and the interviews work to humanize the Israeli youth publicly opposing the cultural norm and the difficulties of navigating the military mental health and political system.

These ongoing reports, hidden from the public eye and historically considered taboo, were part of the IDF's sanctification in Israeli society. These stories that many Israeli teens are going through are the sound of accountability to the culture, which normalized sending their youth to the military.

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  • Shiri Furst, 24,(F) and Yael Dan, 24, (B), childhood friends and roommates today, both were discharged from the IDF for mental health issues. October 16th, 2021. Yael served as a military journalist and was discharged from the IDF after being sexually assaulted and traumatized by the stories she covered. She also faced trauma in her civilian life after her driving license was denied because of her mental health background discharge. Shiri, who served as a producer in the Air Force, was also discharged from the IDF with mental health background. During her service, she was prescribed an excessive amount of antidepressants from a military psychiatrist to stay in the system; it took her almost two years to wean off them.

  • Ori Lavian, 21, at the Jaffa port in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 22nd.
    Ori, born to a bereaved family in an Israeli settlement after her uncle died during his service, has objected to the mandatory draft to the IDF for ideological reasons. Since then, her parents have cut ties with he

  • hahar Perets, 18, who is currently in between incarcerations at military jail after objecting to the mandatory draft to the Israel Defense Force for ideological reasons, at her home in Kfar Yonah, Israel, October 18th, 2021.

  • Ben Mucznik, 22, at his apartment in Jerusalem, Israel, on October 24th.
    Ben has objected to the mandatory draft into the IDF, and received her exemption from military service after attending Conscience Committee in a process that lasted more than two years. The Conscience Committee is incorporated under Israeli law. After receiving the exemption from military service, he enlisted in national service, where he volunteered in elementary schools.

  • Nivi Tamir, 20, at her apartment in Jerusalem, Israel, on October 30th. Nivi has objected to the mandatory draft into the IDF, and received her exemption from military service after attending Conscience Committee in a process that lasted over one year. The Conscience Committee is incorporated under Israeli law.

  • Ofek Avshalom, 24, at his apartment in Ramat Gan, Israel, on October 27th, 2021. Ofek was discharged from the IDF for mental health reasons in 2015 after one year in service and is still dealing with post-trauma from his service.

  • G, disclosed name, 24, in Kibbutz Nir Am next to the Gaza Strip, Israel, on October 27th, 2021. G, was discharged from his mandatory service to the IDF, after suffering from PTSD, living next to the Gaza strip his whole life, which was described as a 'war zone' in his own words.


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