"Everyone there feels like they are doing something wrong. At least my friends felt they were doing something wrong." This was the opening sentence in a pamphlet over 100 pages long, which tells the stories of dozens of soldiers who have served in Hebron over the last few years.
The pamphlet was published by an organization called Breaking the Silence, and includes horrifying descriptions about the behavior Israeli soldiers have adopted towards the Palestinian residents of Hebron, and that of the settlers.
Representatives of Breaking the Silence claim that their goal is "to encourage a public debate about the moral price paid by Israeli society as a whole due to the harsh reality faced by young soldiers forced to take control of a civilian population."
According to the organization, all testimonies were investigated fully before being printed and cross-referenced with witnesses' testimonies and archives of other human rights organizations.
One of the organization's activists said that the situation in Hebron has not changed much during recent years, and that Breaking the Silence has been hearing a lot about the "moral deterioration" of the system as a whole and the soldiers subjected to it. He added that Israeli society has a duty to listen to the soldiers and take responsibility for what is being done in its name.
Metal wire causes loss of hand:
Soldier: "There was one really crazy soldier in my unit, and he loved torture. One time he caused a man to have his hand cut off."
Interviewer: "What happened?"
Soldier: "Just this Arab… The soldier stole a tobacco box from him. "Suddenly the Arab came and yelled, 'thieves, thieves, I saw you.' He got close to the soldier and we tried to keep him away… We didn't know about the stealing.
"The soldier started to beat him, and everyone started pushing… It became a situation where the Arab was being beaten up badly.
"Then the soldier took a metal wire. He was really screwed up. Grabbed the Arab and started to twist it around…"
Interviewer: "On his hand?"
Soldier: "Yeah, he really twisted it. I tell you, we tried to stop him. 'No, I won't let him go. He lifted a hand on me, he'll be punished.' Around and around… Afterwards we tried to get it off and we couldn't, it actually made a groove in his hand. It was blue. And the guy is yelling, 'I can't feel my hand anymore.'
"I said he would have to have his hand cut off. We even tried to dig with a knife, to get it off, but we couldn't… We told him to go to the hospital. Nothing to do, we couldn't cut the wire off."
Soldier: "There was a lot of theft… Once we were at these rich people's house in Hebron. We found a ton of dollar bills in one of the drawers. Insane. The commander said to the two senior guys in the unit, 'Okay, we'll split the money.' They split it. Left a little there and told me, 'If you talk we'll come back and slaughter you.'"
Interviewer: "Was looting normal?"
Soldier: "A little looting was normal. Backgammon and cigarettes, everything… Everything that looked nice we took. Other guys took presents for their girlfriends from stores."
Soldier: "We were on a patrol and we saw a guy in a cab that looked like he was hiding something. We stopped the car… There was just an incident of a soldier getting stabbed there or something.
"We found a knife… We asked the guy, 'Why the knife?' and he said, 'It's for my mother, to chop vegetables.' We said, 'what are you, an idiot? Are you kidding? Are you lying?' He really pissed us off. We grabbed him, hit him a little, in the ribs, not the face.
"Then the rest of the guys on patrol saw the beating. Everyone jumped on him… They beat him up, really beat him up… Hit him with sticks, in the head… And then one started choking him, with two hands. He was 17 or 18 and he started yelling, 'Mama, Baba.' He kept choking him, he was starting to get blue and lose consciousness.
"Suddenly the other guys saw what was happening and started pulling off the soldier. But he wouldn't let go. He wouldn't let go and he yelled, 'You're trying to kill us, you want to kill us, you want to stab me, eh? Son of a bitch, you want to stab me.'
"He was crazy… We pulled him, his legs and stomach. And his whole body was in the air, and we were pulling and pulling… He went at him like a pit-bull. Finally we got him off."
Soldier: "We did all kinds of experiments to see who could do the best split in Abu Sneina. We would put them against the wall, make like we were checking them, and ask them to spread their legs. Spread, spread, spread, it was a game to see who could do it best.
"Or we would check who can hold his breath for longest."
Interviewer: "How do you check that?"
"Choke them. One guy would come, make like he was checking them, and suddenly start yelling like they said something and choke them… Block their airways, you have to press the adams apple. It's not pleasant. Look at the watch as you're doing it, until he passes out. The one who takes longest to faint wins."
To read the pamphlet in full, click on the link below.
(this story was originally published in Ynetnews)