My name is Yasmin Eran-Vardi, and I am 22 years old from Jerusalem.
I grew up in a left-wing secular family, where the discourse about human rights was always present and the situation in the Occupied Territories was part of the daily conversations.
The environment, of course, was different. At an early age I realized that my opinions deviate from the society norms. Through my parents and friends of the family, I met Palestinian children since Young age, something most children in Israel do not have the privilege to meet. Most Jewish children in Israel only hear the word "Palestinian" in the news in the context of terrorist attacks. For me, this word symbolized friends.
Around the age of 14, an Israeli terrorist attack on the residents of Gaza broke out, which Israel called "Pillar of Defense." In one week, Israel killed over 160 Palestinians, almost 100 of them civilians who were not involved in the hostilities. As always in Israel, the atmosphere warmed up. Racist statements were heard from all sides, calls to harm and kill Arabs. Arab women and children were attacked in the streets. Around this time, I began to get more into the "business" of activism. I started going to the demonstrations against evacuation people from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah east Jerusalem myself, joining days of activity in the South Hebron Hills, accompanying shepherds in the Jordan Valley. I also decided that I want to refuse to join the army, and I began to be active in the "Network of Refuses," a network that supports refusal to enlist in the IDF.
When I reached the age of eighteen and it was my turn to report to the recruitment office, I went into the induction center with the backing of demonstration of my family and "Network of refusers", declaring that I refuse to enlist in the occupation army. From there I was sent to military detention, and after about a year that included many different attempts by the army to make it difficult for me, at the age of 19 I received my exemption.
During this entire period, I was interviewed to newspapers and spoke out against the occupation, trying to use the privilege that I have as a white Jewish privileged in Israel to shine a spotlight on the injustices committed in the Occupied Territories and Gaza by the Israeli army.
For the next two years, I volunteered at an anthroposophical boarding school for at-risk youth and children. At the end of this period, with a very high thirst and lack of field activities, I joined the project of an Arabic course combined with documentation activities in Masafer Yatta south Hebron hills. For three months we learned Arabic, through classes and conversations with the residents who became friends, we documented dozens of shocking incidents of settler attacks, house demolitions, arrests and nighttime military incursions into villages. We accompanied shepherds and farmers who were attacked by soldiers, and a variety of other forms of abuse used by the Zionist regime.
The idea is that our presence here as privileged people will cause the occupation forces to act less violently for fear of harming us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.
In addition, the documentation of these events is intended for a legal purpose, in case the military tries to claim that something else happened there, also to expose the public to the reality of Palestinians who live here, in Masafer Yatta.
A year has passed since the end of the course, I have never really left Masafer Yatta since. With other activists we keep on documenting every day the frustrating, worsening, hard and hearting reality for the people Israel is trying to expel from their home.