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The Shministim are Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies the Palestinian Territories. December 18, 2008 marked the launch date of a global campaign to release them from jail. SHMINISIM 2010: A new Shministim letter has been drafted for 2010, and 88 Israeli young people have signed it. The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu, slams the Occupation and asks, “Can military rule of a civilian population be considered anything other than a dictatorship?”
Given the volatile situation facing Israel today, it is of vital importance for youths to be exposed to organisations espousing tolerance, mutual understanding and respect. Equally, our youth must know that there are partner organisations in neighbouring countries that are eager to promote a peaceful and sustainable dialogue. Our youths are presently being raised in an atmosphere of continued trauma and confusion. Many are eager to take an active part in changing the everyday reality they are living in and stopping the violence and injustices that they are witnessing; they yearn to make a difference. Others are too often filled with sadness and fear, scarred by loss, to open their minds to dialogue. Hence the dire need for youth to be exposed to the activities of organisations such as YIFC so that they will be mindful to the fact that only through mutual respect and understanding for human life and values can their reality change and become a brighter and more peaceful one. Our organisation was established in order to fill a vacuum which exists in Israeli society. There is currently no well functioning youth organisation that manages to design and execute projects on a medium or large scale. We therefore envisage the Young Israeli Forum for Cooperation as an organisation that will perform a crucial role in Israeli society – allowing young Israeli activists to truly contribute to Israeli society in particular and to the surrounding region in general. It is imperative for our youth to be empowered and believe in their ability to affect and own their own futures
If what makes a young person young in spirit is his open mind and freethinking, then maybe being a youth in Israel today is not being youth at all. Israeli society is in need of a wide process of demilitarisation in order for it to create space for these characters. In the past four years of Palestinian resistance and Israel’s re-occupation of the territories the obstacles that young people are facing are increasing. From early childhood a Jewish-Israeli is put into an educational process of creating a new generation of soldiers, and the situation of the Palestinian-Israeli citizen youth is even more complicated. They are educated in the same educational system that does not give them the space to create their identity neither personally nor culturally on a national level. But for both groups the conflict is everywhere, sometimes in the fear and absence of personal security, most of the time it exists in the constant racist buzzing arising from hearing people talking about Arabs and seeing violent graffiti on bus stops. However, this situation forces Israeli youth to make hard decisions. Most of the young people do not question what they were taught, but a small yet growing group of Israeli youth is, and their voice will eventually be stronger than the sirens of war.
What I feel about the situation of young people is that they are fed up of the entire situation, i.e. young people are tired of even thinking about the situation that seems like it will never end. This is due to the endless fighting and the feeling that there is no partner on the other side. It is not that people do not want peace, but they feel it is an impossible mission. I think that the main goal is to bring back hope and the aspiration to peace and to make it like something reachable. This could be achieved by showing examples of coexistence.