March 3, 2014, Denver, CO- Alejandra Tello
Alejandra Tello tells the story of Israeli activist, Eran Efrati (part of the traveling group The Soldier and The Refusenik) following the group’s week-long visit to Colorado.
Eran was born and raised in Jerusalem. He was a young man in his early twenties who joined the military as soon as he graduated high school. In the beginning, he was excited to join because it was what he’d been waiting for ever since he was a child. All the children who lived in Jerusalem knew that by the time they graduated high school they would have to join the military. Eran’s mom would tell him as a child that by the time he graduated, there would be no war and that there would be no need for him to become a soldier. It was just a hope because no parent wants their child to go into war.
In the early part of his years as a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, an incident happened that confused him and forced him to start questioning the logic of the military. Eron had shifts outside an elementary school. Kids would run away from him, and it would make him upset because he liked kids. One day, he offered Israel’s most popular candy, Bamba, to all the children, including Palestinians, who were heading home from school. Many would not take it or steal it andjust run across the street and try to get away from Eran.
There was one brave boy, however, who went up to Eran took the Bamba candy and stayed next to him. He offered the candy back to Eran after taking some. This became a routine with Eran and the child and soon the kids starting calling Eran the “Candy Soldier”.
Eran was in charge of mapping in the military. This was a routine activity done by the Israeli military where soldiers check everyone’s homes around four in the morning just to make sure people are home. The routine would usually include making the whole family step outside while and the head of the house, usually the father, would go inside with one of the soldiers and give a tour of the house. He and other soldiers with him would basically destroy houses looking for weapons and anything else that seemed suspicious. Eran’s job was to make a sketch of the house during the mapping nights.
While doing a sketch of one house, Eran was startled to see a little boy standing by his bed scared. Since Eran was not expecting to see anyone there, he was caught by surprise and took out his gun immediately. Soon, the father of the household came in and started beating the child telling Eron that there was no need to punish the boy – that he himself would take care of it. Eron was so confused at the situation because the son was beating his child for no reason. Eran switched the aim of the gun back and forth from the child to the father, from the father to the son. Hearing the chaos from outside, soldiers came inside and ended up arresting the farther because of his “suspicious” behavior.
After the father was in jail for three days, Eron asked the head of his troop what they would do with him. They simply said to let him go because he already learned his lesson. This made Eran extremely confused because in his training as a soldier, he was taught that their main objective was fighting terrorism. And letting him go was not fighting terrorism.
He knew that something wasn’t right. What was the purpose of the military if they were fighting an enemy that didn’t exist? The head of his troop said that as long as the people are constantly in fear, (my using mapping) they will never have time to think about being terrorists.
After these events, Eran decided to take a break from being an Israeli soldier He took his uniform off and decided to wear normal clothes and hang out with his “lefty” friends.
Eran ended up running into some Palestinian protesters. The atmosphere quickly became chaos when the Israeli Army came and started to shoot rubber bullets and spray teargas. Since Eran wasn’t wearing his soldier uniform, the military thought he was a protester. Eran was shot by one of the soldiers.
This made him think about how life would be if the tables were turned. Once he was the one shooting and people and spraying teargas, harming others. Now, he was being harmed.
And this is how Israel’s Candy Soldier decided to quit serving in the military and join a movement against it.