Jailed For Refusing Military Service

[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#fefcff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off”]19-year-old Noa Gur Golan sits in Military Prision 396 near Haifa, Israel. She has been labelled a traitor and a coward. It is not clear when she is going to be released, because she’s being detained for refusing to do her military service with the Israel Defence Force (IDF).
The independent, a british newspaper, reported that Noa had dreamt of being an IDF pilot as a child, but that her views changed when she went to Italy to study at United World College of the Adriatic. When the conscription process began, Noa came to the conclusion she could not condone the “violence and death” that is inherent in being part of a military organisation. It is highly unusual for Israelis to refuse to do their compulsory military service on non-religious grounds.
Noa’s statement on how the UWC movement influenced her views begs the question; “are the United World College values inherently pacifist?”
The founding of the UWC movement in 1962 was the culmination of Hahn’s thinking about education. Hahn was a pioneer in education, some of his earlier initiatives having included Salem School in Germany and Outward Bound. Then, in 1958, while attending a conference at the NATO Staff College, he was inspired by the cooperation he witnessed between former adversaries from World War II. He thought that if we could educate young people from around the world together, we could prevent future conflicts. From this belief in the power of education to change the world, the UWC movement was born, with a mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. To achieve its purpose, the movement outlined the values core to the Kurt Hahn’s educational philosophy:

  • International and intercultural understanding
  • Celebration of difference
  • Personal responsibility and integrity
  • Mutual responsibility and respect
  • Compassion and service
  • Respect for the environment
  • A sense of idealism
  • Personal challenge
  • Action and personal example

These became the building blocks of the colleges. But what set of ethics do they reflect? Are they pacifist? One can argue that the movement advocates that violence is never the answer to conflict. Or are they, in reality, more liberal? Are we not as United World College students obligated to intervene in other communities (or states) to pursue our movement’s liberal values?


It is highly unusual for Israelis to refuse the compulsory IDF draft on non-religious grounds.

[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#fefcff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off”]In her interview with the independent, Noa further commented on the opportunities offered by UWC: “I have had the privilege of meeting friends from the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and other countries. I have gotten to know the people, their personal stories and not the perceptions we were raised upon.” To celebrate difference is perhaps the only ideal written in stone. Indeed, most likely is that Kurt Hahn meant for us to decide ourselves. To build our values on top of the movement’s core, and to have a positive impact on the World based on these values. To be a force for change.
Whether one agrees with pacifism or not, it is difficult to disagree that by fighting for what she believes in, Noa is a force for change.



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