WIN News

Fall 2009

Why They Refuse

Netta Mishly (left) and Maya Wind. Photo by Ellen Davidson.
Netta Mishly (left) and Maya Wind.
Photo by Ellen Davidson.

What drove ten young Israeli Jews to defy the law, their society—even their families—by publicly refusing to obey Israel’s mandatory conscription because “we cannot be moral and serve the occupation”?

For 19-year-old Maya Wind and Netta Mishly, reasons included a bus explosion, a young Palestinian’s account of her father’s death at the hands of Israeli soldiers, and trips to the separation wall.

Maya and Netta are two of ten 2008 shministim (Hebrew for “twelfth-grader,” the word has taken on a secondary meaning of “draft refuser”); 200 other teenagers have signed on to the letter they wrote refusing to serve. In October, they toured the United States under the auspices of Jewish Voice for Peace and Code Pink (see

“I wanted to join the army,” Netta told a packed room at John Jay College of Criminal Justice October 1. “I wanted to take part in Israeli society.” Maya said so did she. Yet in the end, neither of them could do it.

Maya served 42 days in jail, Netta served 20, before the army declared them unfit for service. Now free but facing significant job discrimination, they both work for activist organizations.

—Judith Mahoney Pasternak