Who are the Shministim?
Shministim means “twelfth-graders” in Hebrew. Military service is mandatory after high school for young Jewish Israelis. The Shministim are Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army because it enforces Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinians.
While a number of Shministim letters have been written in the past (read about the first letter sent to Prime Minister Golda Meir here ), about one hundred youth have signed the current 2008 Shministim letter which articulates the basis for refusal.
Because of their principled refusal to serve in an occupying army, youth who sign the letter face jail terms in Israeli military prisons. Terms range from 21 to 28 days; those who refuse to wear a military uniform while in jail are sent to solitary confinement for the duration of their term.
After completing their sentence, they are then drafted again and if they refuse a second time, as most do, they face the same sentence. This can be a repeated process in which Shministim return home for a few days or longer and are then drafted and then imprisoned. Even through they refuse to serve, they still in a sense ‘belong’ to the military until they receive their discharge papers. A Shministi may never receive these papers, and although the Israeli military may tire of re-calling objectors into prison regularly, without these papers, an objector’s fate is always uncertain. There is literally no end to the number of times youth might be sent back to jail.