After 177 Days in Prison, Israeli Conscientious Objector Gets Draft Exemption

Uriel Ferera, a religious Jew, to start civilian national service in summer.

Alex Levac

After spending 177 days in prison, conscientious objector Uriel Ferera received an exemption from military service on Sunday. Ferera had been sent to military prison 10 times, and he got the exemption that had been waiting for him when he reported to the Tel Hashomer military base.

Ferera, a native of Buenos Aires who moved to Israel with his family when he was six years old, lives in Be’er Sheva and is religiously observant. “If I enlist in the army, I will contribute to the occupation even if I do not serve in the territories,” he said in an interview with Haaretz. “Any office work in the army is collaboration, and I want no part in it.

“Refusing to serve is the way I protest,” he added. “Anyone who wants to make peace should not perform military service. I am doing what I feel is the most effective thing to change the current situation – I am not enlisting in the army in order to show them that there are people who think differently and refuse to obey.”

Relatives of his say the army’s committee that handles cases of people deemed unsuitable for military service recommended that he not be granted the exemption. But when he reported to the induction center yesterday, he was told that the committee had reversed its stance, and he received his exemption from army services. Ferera plans to study for his university entrance examinations, and will begin civilian national service in the summer.

Ferera’s mother Ruth said the family was very happy over the news. “Uriel left Be’er Sheva early this morning for the induction center, and he was nervous because he thought he was going to be imprisoned again. When he called, he was very happy about the exemption,” she said. “The state missed out on a man who could have contributed to the country for a year and a half. He could have done his national service already, and done something productive. But the army would not let him – he was in prison.

“We feel that militarism is stronger here than logic,” the mother continued. “When a young man refuses to serve and goes to prison, he receives money every day for a cold drink and potato chips – that’s really foolish. It’s a huge waste. ... Now he says that it isn’t his fight, but that of the Palestinian people. This is what he did to oppose the occupation.”