fore he became a paratrooper in the Israeli army, Avner Gvaryahu saw himself as a good person.
“I was raised in a family and in a society, in a country that educated me to be good and to help people around me, and to not look the other way when you see someone suffering,” the 29-year-old said.
All that changed when he had to enforce Israel’s occupation of territory the country captured in the 1967 war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
“Suddenly I was ‘that’ figure, that it was enough for me to enter a Palestinian home, and little children peed in their pants in fear,” Gvaryahu told NBC News.
That realization changed him forever.
Now Gvaryahu is one the driving forces behind Breaking the Silence, a human rights organization made up of combat veterans that has collected nearly 1,000 testimonials from soldiers and vets on the occupation and military actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It also conducts tours of the West Bank, including Hebron, a Palestinian city that has been a frequent flash point for violence.
Breaking the Silence marked its 10-year anniversary on Friday by the public reading of testimonials in Tel Aviv. And for the first time, they have begun publishing video clips, shot by troops themselves, showing different aspects of the 47-year occupation.
The organization was born in 2004 when Yehuda Shaul and 64 members of his unit, fresh from fulfilling their national service, held an exhibit showcasing their testimonies in a Tel Aviv gallery.
“The response was crazy. Thousands came to see the exhibit in the three weeks it was on. People were shocked by our stories,” said Shaul, 31-year-old an observant Jew from a politically conservative family.
“We kept getting into the realization that people back home had no clue about what we were doing. “So we decided to bring Hebron to Tel Aviv.”… see more