BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Lives in: Jerusalem Was born in: Jerusalem Identity: Israeli, Jewish Type of work: Arts and Media Website: Breaking the Silence Works at Breaking the Silence Interviewer Leora Gal Date of Interview 2008

Yehuda Shaul was brought up in a Jewish Orthodox family in Jerusalem. At the end of his military service, which included serving in Hebron for fourteen months, Yehuda founded Breaking the Silence together with other Israeli soldiers from his unit. Breaking the Silence collects and publishes the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who served in the Territories during the second intifada, calling on the Israeli public to face the price of occupation. Their first event was an exhibit of photographs and testimonials by soldiers serving in Hebron that was displayed in Tel Aviv in 2004.

Yehuda Shaul
quote
"Our story is how an ordinary good boy encounters the circumstances in Hebron and what he does there. We want people to understand what the occupation is, beyond the newspaper headlines. We want to reflect it through a soldier's eyes: how your senses are gradually dulled, how you cross red lines, what the moral cost is."
  Personal Story  
I would say my background is not what you’d expect from someone involved in the work I do today. I come from the Right of the political map. I studied at a high school yeshiva in a settlement in the West Bank, in Maale Michmash near Ramallah. My uncle was a settler in Gush Katif, my sister is a settler.
Israeli Military Service    
Because I wasn’t raised as an Israeli, army service was actually my path to becoming a true Israeli… To me, it was clear that every generation had to do its part to guard the country’s borders, and now it was my turn.
History    
There are huge ideological differences between myself and a person who is capable of approaching an Arab’s door and spray-painting a Star of David or “Arabs out”. To me, the historical memory is hair-raising. We all know the past significance of symbols on Jewish shop doors, and what those symbols were. We are all familiar with the expression when you replace the word “Arabs” with the word “Jews”. We know that history. I saw graffiti that said “Arabs to the gas chambers”, “Arabs to the crematorium” and I understood the horror of the historical context.
Settlements    
Most of my company spoke out against what the settlers were doing. Now, I see that viewing the settlers as evil, blaming them and criticizing them, was an escape, because it meant keeping silent about what we, as soldiers, were doing. I became the good guy because what they did hurt me.
Occupation    
I saw what used to be a dentist’s clinic. Soldiers had broken in and destroyed everything. There were broken syringes, shattered glass cases and mirrors. There was shit on the floor and it was smeared all over. This was the first time I encountered such brutality and I was shocked. I took out a camera I had in my gear and started taking pictures. When I went home on leave I had the photos developed and scanned them. A friend and I looked for Israeli journalists’ email addresses; we opened an email account and sent the photos to journalists, saying, “look what’s happening in Hebron.”
Israeli Military Service    
People wandered around [the exhibit], looking at photos of Palestinians bound and blindfolded, racist graffiti, closed streets and destruction. People looked at the photographs and their mouths fell open. One soldier said to me, “Yehuda, why are they so shocked? I feel right at home here.” I understood him because that’s what we had been seeing every day.
Occupation    
Moral values disintegrate, that’s inherent in these circumstances and you can’t both be there and not be there. Occupation is an equation. Soldiers dominate civilians. It starts with what I talked about and ends with what we don’t want to listen to, yet we must because our society is an occupying one, and our soldiers are doing these things in our name.
   International Involvement 
I see circles of responsibility: at the core are the Israelis, and there are external circles of responsibility around them. From a historical perspective, we are all responsible for what is done in our name.
Separation Barrier    
The separation fence is an expression of Israelis saying, “It’s only us here.” It’s part of our 60-year-long monologue.
 Language   
I’m afraid of us and what our policy is doing to us. I’m afraid there will be Jews here, but not in a democratic framework. The question is what kind of country or society we’ll have.
   Justice 
I believe injustice cannot prevail indefinitely. I think history is stronger than all of us and that things will change, even if that takes time, because if things aren’t based on equality, they won’t be viable in the long term.