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WATCH: IDF to jail ultra-Orthodox Jew for refusing to serve the occupation

Uriel Ferera, a 19-year-old Haredi from Be’er Sheva, was raised on the values of social justice and peace. Now, the IDF has announced it will jail him for an undetermined period of time for refusing to serve.

By Daniel Beller

When Uriel Ferera was born in Argentina 19 years ago, democracy in the South American country was an established fact, and no one was being jailed for having left-wing views, not to mention being a pacifist. On April 27th, in Israel – a country that likes to call itself “The only democracy in the Middle East” – he will be jailed for refusing to serve in the Israeli army. Uriel, who comes from an ultra-Orthodox family from Be’er Sheva and was one of the first to sign the latest refusenik letter, says that he objects to serving in the IDF on the grounds that military service in any role contributes to enforcing the occupation.

“People may see a Haredi Jew (a stream of Judaism characterized by the rejection of modern, secular culture, D.B.) and think ‘he’s lazy, hence he doesn’t want to serve the country’ and that’s not the case. I want to do national service, just as my sister Yael did. But the IDF has decided that I will go to jail for being a pacifist.”

Ferera and his sister. (photo: Ruty Ferera)

Ferera and his sister Yael. (photo: Ruty Ferera)

Uriel is a brilliant student who has excelled in both secular and religious studies. Since a very young age he has accompanied his photographer mother, Ruty, to rallies for social justice in the Negev (one of Israel’s poorest areas ) as well as for protests for the Negev Bedouin, who time and time again are expelled from their villages, most of which have no electricity or running water. Moreover, Uriel helps his mother document the dramatic situation of public housing in his city and takes part in local actions.

“I can do my part and have a meaningful national service, in education or community work. I appealed to the IDF committee that deals with conscientious objectors, explained my situation, but they told me that they are determined to send me to jail.”

“That’s what I don’t understand,” adds Uriel, “Instead of allowing me to do national service, doing my part for the country, I’m going to jail, wasting tax payer money and doing nothing. I’m going to be jailed for an undetermined period of time – not because I committed a crime, but because of my peaceful convictions.”

WATCH: Ferera explains why he has refused to serve in the Israeli army

This week has been very tense for the Ferera family. “I’m not as afraid for myself as I am for my mother. Knowing that her son is going to jail because of the education he received at home – one that is based on peace and human rights – is very hard for her.”

Ruty emigrated to Israel when Uriel was six. She wanted her children to be raised according to her values, and chose Be’er Sheva – the biblical city of Abraham – as the right place for a Haredi family to live. Now she sees her dreams shattered, as her own country jails her son for advocating for peace and human rights.

It has been more than 30 years since Argentinians went to jail for pacifism. In Israel of 2014, it is still considered a crime.

Daniel Beller is a journalist, blogger and radio broadcaster based in Be’er Sheva.

Read more:
Israeli teens tell Netanyahu: We will not take part in occupation
WATCH: Druze draft refuser sentenced to 6th prison term

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    1. Rehmat

      What occupation? No one should take Ultra-Orthodox Jew’s opinion seriously. These Jews are anti-Zionist and a burden on Israeli government.

      Do you know Israeli army police is already hunting for 4500 such Orthodox Jew deserters.


      Reply to Comment
      • Marcos

        Not all Haredi Jews are anti-Zionist. The family moved to Israel from the Diaspora. And Uriel’s sister performed national,service.

        Stop trying to shoehorn in your narrow, hateful views which repeatedly are easy to prove fallacious.

        Reply to Comment
      • Average American

        “Anti-Zionist”? Can you tell me what it means to be “Pro-Zionist”? What policies and actions by the Israeli government would a pro-zionist support? Would one of them be The Jewish Lebensraum? Of course I use the word lebensraum deliberately, to refer to the policies of the German National Socialist government in the 30s and 40s, and to imply that there’s no difference in action or in ideas of ethnic superiority by the current Israeli government.

        Reply to Comment
        • Rehmat

          Glad to explain the difference between “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Zionist”.

          Israeli-born Gilad Atzmon says he is proud to be an “anti-Zionist” and has nothing to do with Israel.

          Dr. Finkelstein and Dr. Chomsky claim they’re anti-Zionist but pro-Israel.

          War criminal Dr. Kissinger says he is pro-Zionist regime in occupied Palestine.

          Rabbi Henry Siegman is proud to be a Zionist, but predicts that “the end of Israel is near”.


          Reply to Comment
        • IlonJ

          What is the point of telling you anything?

          You already “know” the answers that you want to know and only those answers. Why spoil your illusions?

          Reply to Comment
      • oded

        So being anti-Zionist or even (heh) being a ‘burden on Israeli government’ means your opinions shouldn’t be taken seriously. And you claim all ultra-orthodox Jews should be treated this way.

        Reply to Comment
    2. I spent time in Israeli military jail for refusing draft orders and I do not recommend it.
      Be sure to bring lots of seforim to keep yourself busy there!

      Reply to Comment
    3. shachalnur

      I wish Uriel and his family strenght.

      I think they are upholding real Jewish values and dignity under very difficult circumstances.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rachamim Dwek

      The kid is a liar, plain and simple, both about his rationale AND about being Charedi. First, he has the opportunity to perform Sherut L’e’umi in lieu of his IDF service. He can serve as few as 12 months, living at home, obtaining all the benefits of IDF service simply by performing community service of his choosing. Ergo, his rationale is a lie. Secondly, no Charedi would ever allow a grown sister to embrace him, much less one wearing imodest (to Charedim) clothing. In addition, playing with cats violates Halacha, no Charedi would dare do that, much less be photographed doing so. So, we have a Leftist using a kippa as a prop and shirking his civic responsibility. Grow up Uriel Ferera. You are no more important than anyone else. Carry your own weight and stop whining.

      Reply to Comment
      • el baran

        Rachamim i find your answer surprising and ill-informed. Many charedim, my family included , would love to do sherut leumi, but it is closed to charedim thanks to lapid & co. I pray it will reopen, we will rush to do it.
        Also whatever gave you the idea that playing with cats is assur? we are charedi (chassidim) and have lots of pets!

        Reply to Comment
      • Leon

        I second El Baran’s comment. There is no way to do Sherut Leumi if you do not first get drafted to the regular army and then, only then, you may be given the option of doing sherut leumi under a set of specific conditions set by the state, but the decision certainly does not depend on you. Otherwise you can be 100% certain that the huge majority of hareidim (and probably a nonnegligible part of non-hareidim) would choose sherut leumi.

        Reply to Comment
      • Boris

        Thank you Rechamim – all the things you’ve mentioned regarding the kid being a ‘real charedi’ ring true to me.
        I’m not sure about the law though – here Leon and El Baran most likely have a valid point.
        I feel sorry for the young man – he’s in a tough situation now. Sure, Israel is a tough place, far from being perfect, but it’s the only state Jews have, and it needs to be defended continuously. Now, Uriel is right about a waste of taxpayers money – no one wins here.
        I know well Ultra Orthodox community in NYC – never once I saw anyone there walking a dog, or any cat sitting in their windows.
        I once asked a Satmar hassid: ‘what you’ll do if you find a cat sitting on your sofa?’ The answer:’I’d call the police’ 🙂

        Reply to Comment