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Freed Israeli conscientious objector: They tried to break me

Uriel Ferera says he doesn’t feel like he lost the 177 days that he spent in military prison. ‘The opposite. I fought for my principles — to not lend a hand to the occupation.’

By Daniel Beller

Uriel Ferera, 19-year-old orthodox Jew from Beer Sheva, enters Tel Ha'Shomer Military Base, where he will announce his refusal to draft to Israeli army service, April 27, 2014. Uriel says he refuses to take part in the occupation and that his request for civil service instead of a military one was rejected by the army.

Uriel Ferera, 19-year-old orthodox Jew from Beer Sheva, enters Tel Ha’Shomer Military Base, where he will announce his refusal to draft to Israeli army service, April 27, 2014. Uriel says he refuses to take part in the occupation and that his request for civil service instead of a military one was rejected by the army.

After 177 days in Israeli military prison and 10 trials, ideological conscientious objector Uriel Ferera is a free man. When Ferera arrived at an IDF induction base on Sunday he was under the impression that he would be heading back to jail for an eleventh time. Instead, he was told that the IDF was releasing him from military service for “incompatibility on the basis of grave and bad behavior.”

Ferera says that the army had previously offered for him to see a military psychiatrist in order to justify his release from service on psychiatric grounds. “But the mental health officer, that’s a way for the army to wash its hands [of me]. They don’t want to face the truth. I insisted and was sentenced [to prison] 10 times. In the previous sentencing, the military judge said that it in all likelihood it would be the last time.”

Ferera, of Be’er Sheva, comes from an Orthodox family that immigrated from Argentina. “I wanted to perform national [civilian] service but not in an occupying army. I didn’t want to lend my hand to the occupation and the oppression of another nation,” he said.

The hardest day was his first day in prison, Ferera explained. “They tried to break me, with verbal and physical violence.”

The other prisoners weren’t aware of why Ferera was there, he continued, and they didn’t really care. “In military prison, everyone is on their own. Even when I was put on trial, the judges didn’t always know my background.”

The IDF’s Prison 6 was tough, Ferera explained following his release from the army. “When they saw that I had gotten used to the place, they transferred me to Prison 4.” Ferera was worried about the transfer, he said, because it’s the same prison in which another conscientious objector, Omar Sa’ad, became ill and was hospitalized in serious condition. “But Prison 4 had a less tough atmosphere. They didn’t try and break me there like in Prison 6.”

Uriel Ferera walking out of military jail after serving his first sentence. (photo: Ruty Ferera)

Uriel Ferera walking out of the IDF’s Prison after serving his first of 10 sentences. (photo: Ruty Ferera)

In between prison terms, Uriel became aware of the public support for his struggle. Less so in prison, if at all. “I think that one of the reasons the guards didn’t speak with me about why I was in prison is that they didn’t want’ to confront the truth.”

“It would have been easy to send me to the army psychiatrist. It was harder for them, it seems, to confront what I was actually saying,” he added.

“When I walked out of the induction base I still hadn’t processed that I’m a free man,” Uriel said.

The young conscientious objector says he’s ready to move on with his life — to register for higher education, to volunteer for national civilian service, to continue struggling against the occupation.

“I will volunteer to guide other draft refusers, with organizations like “Yesh Gvul,” he explained. “To accompany them like others accompanied me.” The family of Natan Blanc, another draft refuser who was also sent to prison for upwards of 170 days, supported Ferera’s mother, he said. “They worried that I would be put in prison yet again.”

Looking back at his time in prison, Ferera says that he doesn’t feel like he lost 177 days of his life. “The opposite. I fought for my principles — to not lend a hand to the occupation. The side that lost is the State, which kept me in prison for 177 days.”

It was important for Ferera to not let the army release him on psychological grounds, he explains. “They pushed and they threatened — they tried to break me. But as more and more time went by, I understood that I am strong and that I could survive.”

Uriel Ferera went home on Sunday — this time, it was for good and with his head held high.

This article was first published on +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
‘How speaking out about the occupation nearly landed me in jail’
[WATCH] Druze refusal in the Israeli army (part 1): A history lesson

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    COMMENTS

    1. Mikesailor

      Congratulations on your release. During the Vietnam War, many conscientous objectors were also imprisoned for their beliefs. You are in good company. Unfortunately, to keep conscription viable in any society you must: 1) scare the population to the point where not only will they agree to give their lives for purposes they might not only disagree with but under orders from people who are never chosen by those they command , and 2) break and punish all dissenters lest they “infect” others which may lead to the entire edifice crumbling. Absent a realistic existential threat, what is the true purpose of a large standing military? Does the very existence of one lead inevitably to military conflict because it benefits those with a financial or political interest in fomenting conflict? If, for instance, the IDF was not “required” to be an occupation force in the West Bank, what would be the point in having such a bloated military? Could the money saved be shifted somewhere else? Doesn’t the continuing building of settlements necessitate the consciption of the young and naive?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      Israel should deport him back to Argentina. Israel long ago would have ceased to exist without a strong army made up of conscripts trained to defend the state.

      Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        Judging by the article, he never was in Argentina in his life.

        So how would he be deported “back” to Argentina, especially if he was born in Israel?

        Reply to Comment
        • “Ferera, of Be’er Sheva, comes from an Orthodox family that immigrated from Argentina. “I wanted to perform national [civilian] service but not in an occupying army. I didn’t want to lend my hand to the occupation and the oppression of another nation,” he said.”

          “comes from an orthodox family that immigrated from Argentina”. The article doesn’t say whether Uriel was born in Israel or Argentina, and he certainly could have been born in Israel. Pedro’s suggestion is of course, ridiculous. He can love Israel enough to know that what the GoI is doing in his name is wrong and he won’t contribute to it’s crimes. That is called having integrity. I hope there will be many, many more like him.

          Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            # you also support running Israelis over with cars and buses…..//…..an’ of course you “converted” to Judaism……etc, etc.sick-o!

            Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Nonsense, Pedro: the state has rarely been threatened. Only in 1973 did Egypt and Syria attack, and that was to achieve a peace that Sadat had been offering for years. Don’t give us the old eternal victims malarkey again – it may work with ignorant Americans and Israelis, but everyone with any knowledge of history knows that Israel’s decision to live by the sword was the only way to continue expanding and to unite a divided populace. Failed hasbara!

        Reply to Comment
        • Merav

          …brIan and brYan: SAME canine – raging everywhere fooling himself……

          Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        I take your point – Israel is not a state of the Jews providing secure refuge for worldwide Jewry. It is merely a Zionist state, welcoming the young, the fit, the compliant, those who won’t rock the boat, or those who don’t seek to live their lives based on universal principles of peace, freedom and justice.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Michael Wilkinson

      This young guy is a hero. More power to you Uriel, and all others around the world who refuse to be part of oppressive militaries.

      Humans must win this war.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Best of luck to you Uriel! It’s hard to stand tall with your convictions when so many try to bring you down. Your parents must be so proud as are we, those who support your refusal to be part of the occupation. Thank you –

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mazen El-Khairy

      This colonial entity is doomed to fail, hopefully in the not so distant future. It is a danger to all people: Jews, Christians, Moslems and non-believers. The only solution is to give back to the Palestinian all what was stolen from them and have one democratic country with equal rights and duties for all.

      Reply to Comment
    6. NIZ

      Thank you Uriel. You are more than welcome to live in the land of Palestine and the region where-ever you wish. Ahlan wa sahlan. Shoulder to shoulder against fascism.

      Reply to Comment
    7. A person

      Why is this news? Who cares about this? Also, this guy clearly chose to pick a fight with the IDF, he pissed some people off and got in jail. This is how a military works. You want to get out, fine, but use the proper channels (yes, the mental health officer, that’s how you get out, no prison time included).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ginger Eis

      Well, well, well, what do we have here? “The Coalition Of Ugly Creatures For Burn Israel Down Now!” – consisting of (a) Muslims, (b) neo-Nazis, (c) (closet) Western anti-Semites and (d) lunatic far leftist idealists engaging in an hallucinatory orgy of hate, shouting cheerful exclamations to their weird perception of the imminent fall of Zion. Wow, what a frenzy! The reactions so far are yet another proof that our IDF is Magnificent, Mighty and Strikes FEAR in the hearts of these hateful ugly creatures, some of whom are here ranting above (and soon their comrades will join below in the hallucinatory rants!). Indeed, the IDF is their worst nightmare come true! Indeed, without our beloved IDF there will be no Israel; without Israel the Jewish People will still exist in the same situation they existed from 70 CE to 1948 that made possible centuries of hatred and victimization, oppression and Dhimmitude, expulsions and killings of Jews both as individuals and as a People by their fellow “countrymen” during the Galut, the lootings of their properties, pogroms and genocide. The Jewish State has put an end to all that and the IDF has carved FEAR deep into the hearts of the enemies of Zion! Anything that remotely suggests any form of weakening of the IDF sends “The Coalition Of Ugly Creatures For Burn Israel Down Now!” into a hallucinatory frenzy as the comments show. What a bunch of imbeciles!

      May G-d Bless the IDF.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj4LtivlhHg

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Having read this rant, I’m exceedingly curious as to why over half of world Jewry remain living in the ghastly Galut. Look at any area of human achievement – the world’s mega-billionaires, astronomy,chess, science, literature, law, cinematography, economics, mathematics, the performing arts, comedy, journalism, philosophy, history, etc., etc., and you will find everywhere major contributions by Jews who have lived and chosen to remain living in America, Europe, Russia, and elsewhere. I can’t help wondering if your obvious commitment to one very small and insignificant state does not incubate a narrow-mindedness, a profound lack of empathy and a deep xenophobia, towards (a) the rest of the world; (b) Diaspora Jews and (c) non-Jewish Israelis. As for your love-affair with the IDF, is that the same force that has miserably failed to fulfill its proclaimed objectives repeatedly in Lebanon and Gaza. Of course I’m not saying this is the fault of the ordinary soldiery – huge blame has to be attached to self-serving politicians and generals. It would be nice Ginger to know a little bit more about you – have you travelled the world? have a studied abroad? We could then perhaps understand whether your insularity is the product of a ghetto existence, or results from other personality traits.

        Reply to Comment
        • Merav

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phxRZXd6r9E

          brIan/brYan, stop moaning an’ groaning for Gigi….Gingi cannot hear you brian/Bryan….//…nobody does not about you…..//…Gingi does not respond to ur rants brian/bryan……..nothing will come out of your stalking Ginger….#..go home little stalker…

          Reply to Comment
          • Theodore

            Having followed many discussions on this site for a very long time, I also think there is something very awkward about this Brian – or is Bryan? It seems he harbors unresolved issues with Ginger.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Four someone with at least four screen names in constant deployment here, three of which are visible on this page right now, it is just funny that you think ‘Bryan’ and I are the same person. Or that you think I am here more often than you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            I’m fully aware Merav that your role is as an attack dog – you have no coherent arguments (or you are unable to articulate anything) so all you do is to come to Ginger’s defence by slagging off those who point out her absurdities. Well done – you have established yourself as her alto ego. She appears to be unable to defend her idiocy, but then along you come to get some sort of orgasmic high from denigrating anyone who points out her absurdity. I hope that gives you some sort of relief.

            Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            ….ooohh….this is hilarious…..brian/bryan now posting and responding to bryan/brian??!! hilarious…. this canine bryan/brian has serious personality disorder….!!!

            Reply to Comment
        • Bryan

          Slug – can you appreciate how absurd your arguments are – more Jews live outside the so-called state of the Jewish people than have chosen to join the ethnic-cleansers who have opted to make Aliyah. I will immediately withdraw that remark because I realize many of those dragooned into coming to Israel are actually decent guys and gals who hate what the extremists are doing to their state.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            You are absolutely right that every nation in the world now has a diaspora. Globalisation and pluralism have made it increasingly easy for nationals to leave their homeland and move elsewhere for social and economic opportunities. However the British, Chinese, Lebanese, Greek and other governments to not constantly denigrate the unsatisfactory lives of their foreign diasporas nor constantly accuse them of disloyalty for failing to come home.

            Reply to Comment
      • Instead of squandering your obvious talent as the Israeli version of Toyko Rose, you could do so much more. Put your idol worship and provide a helping hand, mouth or other orifice to the Israel Defence Force. How? Volunteer to travel with various combat units, or work the checkpoints. Enlist the help of your girls and maybe even your mom, and realize the chance of a lifetime. This would show the devotion you have for each and every boy, instead of just talking about them you could actually do an entire battalion! You’d be guiding them into manhood and no one would get killed! By providing the booty call to your beloved soldier boys, you’d keep them calmer, less trigger happy, maybe it would prevent the overkill they are so famous for and maybe it would prevent some of them from bothering Palestinian women and their daughters with their anger management problems. If they could release their pent-up tension with you, your girlfriends and your mom, the world could be a safer place. It would be a public service! You could sell your car to buy all the costumes and props you and your girls are going to need for this very special duty. If these boys knew you were waiting for them after boot camp, I bet there’d be no boy who would ever think of shirking his duty (provided you don’t, of course). They might even name a street after you, a cul-de-sac, an alley, maybe a car wash or at least a vacuum…Who knows! The sky is the limit.

        Where did you do your military service?

        Reply to Comment
        • Merav

          sick-o! not surprised u r very good at pornography…..//…keep embarrassing yourself…//..soon ur male canine friend brIan/brYan will join you an’ both of u can get on sniffing and smelling each others a***s gazing in the air and circling around in a frenzy ….# just wait …brian/bryan gonna be here soon and the sniffing can start….be a patient little canine….

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Thank you Merav for another logically argued, insightful comment, backed up by copious facts. You certainly are an expert on the subject.

            Reply to Comment
        • Bryan

          Thank you Slug for another logically argued, insightful comment, backed up by copious facts. You certainly are an expert on the subject.

          Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            ….ooohh….this is hilarious…..brian/bryan now posting and responding to bryan/brian??!! LOL…. this canine bryan/brian is now really going off the rails an’ crashin’ in confussion…//.. someone call the shrink …# brian has serious personality disorder….hilarious!!!

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            I feel like I finally understand you. Let me explain:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slug

            Slugs are hermaphrodites, having both female and male reproductive organs.[10] Once a slug has located a mate, they encircle each other and sperm is exchanged through their protruded genitalia. A few days later, the slugs lay around thirty eggs in a hole in the ground, or beneath the cover of an object such as a fallen log.

            Apophallation is a commonly seen practice among many slugs. In apophallating species, the penis curls like a corkscrew and during mating, it often becomes entangled in the mate’s genitalia. Apophallation allows the slugs to separate themselves by one or both of the slugs chewing off the other’s penis. Once its penis has been removed, the slug is still able to mate using only the female parts of its reproductive system.[10]

            Reply to Comment
    9. Victor Arajs

      I am not sure that a short prison term justifies his bonafides. I would have been more impressed if he burned his israeli passport and requested asylum in Palestine. That would truly embarass the zionists. When he does national service or pursues higher education, he will indirectly benefit the Occupation

      Reply to Comment
    10. 177 days so much waste of time.. better if he was trying to get profile 21

      Reply to Comment
    11. Ginger Eis

      Uriel, I am sure you will read this. I want you to know that no one hates you even though you are an unfortunate figure. In every human society such as Israel, there will always be the good, the not so good and the bad. Regardless of how good or bad you are, you will always remain one of us and we will fight to protect you and pay to feed you and have you get good education IF you can’t provide for yourself. With tears in my eyes, I am more than honored to pay homage to our boys and girls, men and women who paid the ultimate price and died the most horrific deaths imaginable to man so that We – the Jewish People – may be FREE and Be All We Can BE in Our Ancestral Home Land and live with Dignity in Foreign countries/Diaspora.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXV5Syuef2w

      Reply to Comment
      • Theodore

        Ginger, you just ruined my day! But, thank you for this solemn moment to remember our fallen loved ones. The remembrance day is always one of the most difficult for me personally. Thanks again.

        Reply to Comment
      • Barbara

        We Remember Them by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer

        “At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
        At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
        At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
        At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
        At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
        At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
        As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

        When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
        When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
        When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
        When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
        When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
        For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.”

        Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Uriel doesn’t need your cheap bathos, Eis, and your snide insinuation, deftly slipped in among all the flag waving, that he is among the not so good and the bad. He is among the good. And the strong. They didn’t break him. He is a true patriot. Amidst all the fake tenderness you make a show of where is your taking any issue with the attempt of Prison 6 to break him? It’s nowhere. You want to take care of the poor boy only after they break him? Is that it? If you are so tenderly concerned for his feelings why don’t you write a letter to the commandant of Prison 6 instead of a fake letter to Uriel?

        Reply to Comment
        • Merav

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phxRZXd6r9E

          bryan/brian, stop moaning and groaning for Gingi….//…Gingi cannot hear you brian/Bryan….//…Gingi does not care about you…..//…nothing will come out of your stalking Gingi….///…Gingi treats you like you don’t exist and never respond to any of your rants and that makes you go bonkers and puts u on the path of obsessive stalking ….# go home you little canine stalker!!!

          Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        So ginger are your ancestors from New York or Ukraine. I suspect not from Yemen, Morocco, Khazaria or Yemen.

        Reply to Comment
        • Theodore

          You certainly are an awkward dude! Btw,why are you using multiple identities Brian/Bryan?

          Reply to Comment
          • Merav

            Theodore, that dude brIan/brYan is a deluded psychopath an’ he ain’t got any brains….# brIan/brYan is still working out how brIan/brYan will respond an’ it’s gonna take him awhile b4 he works it out…LOL…//…brYan/brIan will respond to ur question an’ brIan/brYan will respond to brYan/brIan…..//… wait for it……this is comedy central……. hillariou….. lovin’ it…..

            Reply to Comment
    12. Charles

      I’d like to donate / raise money for this brave kid.
      If the author or Uriel are reading this – please consider doing a GoFundMe.com sort of thing so I can use my Visa Privilege. I would also ask others.
      I know what it’s like to get kicked out the army in Israel. Things are likely to be hard. I’d like to make it easier for Uriel.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Joel

      Israel up and quit South Lebanon and Gaza and look what she got.

      I wonder how Uriel Ferera wishes Israel to disengage from the West Bank.

      Reply to Comment
    14. phil

      Ginger, Barbara, Merav, Sluggo, Theodore and Joel..

      Have any of you served in the Israeli military?

      Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        @Phil

        No. So that make me a hero like Uriel Ferera?

        Reply to Comment
    15. A Person

      I have to say I am really disgusted by the comments here. So much hatred, so much antisemitism. Particularly obnoxious was Marnie’s comment about IDF soldiers allegedly “bothering” Palestinian women, as well as her obnoxious suggestion about Israeli women- I challenge her to bring one proven instance of such “bothering”! This clearly comes from spite and hatred towards my people, and perhaps a bit of ignorance as well.
      As far as Uriel is concerned, I think that what we have on our hands is one very confused young person, perhaps even mentally unstable, who perhaps did not feel like serving for 3 years, and did not want to get out on a mental health clause. I truly wish him the best, but I also wish that he wasn’t exploited and taken advantage of by Jew-haters the way he is right now. Uriel, although I believe that at least on some level you are sincere, I don’t think you’re a hero, and I think that you should not let antisemites take advantage of you like that.

      Reply to Comment
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