Israel’s longest held female conscientious objector was freed from prison Monday after over five months behind bars for refusing to enlist to the IDF.
An IDF board released Tair Kaminer, 19, from mandatory service last week, but she was only let out of army prison Monday evening.
Kaminer refused to perform compulsory military service because of her opposition to Israel’s nearly 50-year military control over the West Bank and Gaza.
“What gave me strength this whole time was the knowledge that I am part of the struggle against the repression of the Palestinian people,” she said upon her release, according to Ynet.
“It’s really a weight lifted off my heart,” she said. “I am part of something bigger and I am one of many people working for the sake of peace and for the sake of making it better here.”
Last week the IDF said Kaminer was being released from army service because she is “unfit due to her severe, bad behavior.”
On July 10, Kaminer’s request to be pardoned from the military was denied. Her case was then brought before a board that decides whether a candidate is fit for service, which subsequently declared her unfit.
Kaminer served six stints in military prison for refusing to enlist.
In Israel, military service is mandatory for most Jews, with women required to serve for two years and men for three. Exemptions are given for Israelis with mental health problems, the ultra-Orthodox, and pacifists, the army said. Those who receive exemptions have the option of joining the national service program.
Kaminer has said she would be willing to perform national service.
The objector said in an earlier interview that she grew up in a home where politics was often discussed, and that she has long opposed Israel’s rule over the West Bank. But her decision not to enlist was cemented while spending a year after high school volunteering with children in Sderot, an Israeli town on the border with the Gaza Strip. Sderot has been hit by thousands of rockets fired from Gaza over the years and has been on the front lines of three Israeli wars against Hamas terrorists.
She said she saw a lot of “hate” among Sderot’s children toward Arabs, and concluded that Palestinian children in Gaza have a “good reason” to feel the same toward Israelis.
“We are creating generations of hate on both sides that will only make the situation worse,” she said. “If we don’t stop it, we must oppose it.”
Mesarvot, a group that assists conscientious objectors, says the longest jail term in history was to a man who was imprisoned for 23 months over a decade ago. In most cases, objectors are eventually deemed unfit to serve and dismissed, it said.
There are typically fewer than 10 such cases a year, the army says.
Agencies contributed to this report.