My name is Noam Aronovitz. I was born and raised in Jerusalem by parents who came to Israel for Zionist reasons. A large part of my mother’s family was decimated in the Holocaust.
When I finished high school, I settled into the pre-military program in Jaffa, after which I served in the Palhan"/”Sapphire” Engineer Company, Nahal Brigade, like so many others who are motivated to make a meaningful contribution. From there, I went on to various commanding posts: first as a squad commander, and later as a staff commander and finally as a deputy company commander.
Throughout my service it was clear to me that with all the complexities of serving in the Territories, I am a soldier in the army, and there is no room for political stances in that equation. This was true as I witnessed the harassment of Palestinians by the Jewish residents of Hebron, or the destruction of herding land during military exercises in the Jordan Valley; but with time, the certainty, that everything I was doing served the maintenance of the security of Israeli citizens and my home, fractured. My presence there was also what enabled many of the problematic phenomena I could point out even then.
After leaving the military, I tried to stay to steer clear of dealing with anything to do with the conflict — new bulletins, newspapers, political activism. I was doing this well, until I was talked into meeting a group of Palestinians from the south of Mount Hebron, through the southern group of Combatants for Peace.
For the first time in my life I entered a Palestinian village in the West Bank without a weapons or military escort. This time, I was a guest. I was surprised by how natural the meeting felt, and it was not so self-evident. A woman sat next to me who was answering concerned messages from her husband, who had heard she was at this sort of meeting. I thought it was funny that half an hour earlier I had sent the most detailed information possible about the route for this trip to friends at home — in case something were to happen.
That meeting was the start of a process for me, which unravelled my superficial perception of the people who made up the “other side”. It taught me how, together, we could change our difficult existence, and fight to end the cycle of violence that many of us saw a precondition of reality.