For young Israelis, the end of mandatory military service is supposed to mark the beginning of their adult lives. For thousands, it triggers an existential crisis.

CHARLOTTE BRUNEAU

THE PAIN INSIDE

Film Director

IN THIS FILM

In Israel, military service is mandatory for most people over the age of 18. Men serve three years and women serve two. Exemption from military service is rare and highly controversial. All Israelis who complete compulsory military services become part of the Israeli reserve force. The Israeli army is one of the most prominent institutions in the country, wielding enormous influence over the economy, culture and politics.


Conscientious objectors are socially ostracised and often jailed for refusing to serve. Israelis view military service as a family obligation or moral duty. Most Israelis see it as a positive experience - a prerequisite to a successful career that gives young Israelis the opportunity to network. Israeli society romanticises military service, but for some soldiers, reality proves different.

 

Some soldiers are so psychologically damaged by their time in the army they begin to question the state they served. Growing numbers seek answers by travelling overseas. India and Berlin are two top destinations. For some ex-soldiers, it's a journey from which they never return.

Mandatory military service can leave Israeli soldiers with post-traumatic stress. Upon military discharge, they are given a cash bonus. Many use that money to buy a plane ticket out of Israel, to get some distance and heal psychological wounds. Most are drawn to India, with its promise of spirituality and easy access to recreational drugs.

Berlin is another popular destination for Israeli travellers, who don’t need a visa to enter European countries. About 30,000 Israelis currently live in Berlin. Some refuse to return to Israel as a way to protest the occupation.

Other Israelis believe it's better to criticise their country from within. They refuse to enlist. They also refuse to leave Israel. These conscientious objectors are a small, but vocal group.

 

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli NGO made up of soldiers and veterans. Its mission is to publish the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who return to civilian life and "discover the gap between the reality which they encountered in the [occupied] territories, and the silence which they encounter at home". Ex-soldiers speaking out against the brutality of the Israeli army is a powerful way of challenging the occupation, they say.

 

The occupation and military conscription have a profound effect on young Israelis. One young soldier says it turns young people into "monsters in a distorted reality". Their time in the army leaves them with deep psychological wounds that can haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Overseas, many ex-soldiers become alienated from Israel. They say people in Tel Aviv live in a "bubble" and that the future of Israel is "hanging by a thread". The yearly exodus - to India, Berlin and other destinations - threatens the Zionist vision of Israel as a safe haven for Jews. The occupation has fractured that dream. Israel has become a place that even some of its own soldiers want to flee.

The task was to terminate them. And that's what we did.
SHAHAR LEVI
FORMER ISRAELI SOLDIER
The number of Israelis in Berlin is increasing.
ELAD JAKOBOVITCH
FREELANCE JOURNALIST
Ordinary people, even intelligent people with high self-awareness, become, in a way, monsters in this distorted reality.
SHAHAR LEVI
FORMER ISRAELI SERGEANT
You don't have a lot of choice in Israel.
SHAI MICHEL
FORMER ISRAELI SOLDIER
Israel is a crazy experiment.
TOMER SAGEE
FORMER ISRAELI SOLDIER

BORDERS

SETTLEMENT

ZIONISM

OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

GREEN LINE

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DIRECTOR

CHARLOTTE BRUNEAU

 

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

YANN FIGUET

 

EDITOR

CHARLOTTE BRUNEAU &

PHILIPPE BECKER

 

MUSIC

NICOLAS PARCOLLET

 

PRODUCTION HOUSE

FREE LENS TELEVISION, LUXEMBOURG

 

COMMISSIONING SENIOR PRODUCER

RAWAN DAMEN

 

PRODUCTION YEAR

2013

 

REVERSIONED BY AL JAZEERA WORLD TO ENGLISH – 2013

 

COPYRIGHT © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED FOR AL JAZEERA

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