My name is Sofia Orr, and I refuse to enlist in the Israeli army because there are no winners in war. Only losers. Everyone living here is losing.

In Israel, on the seventh of October, all of us, especially the residents of the Gaza Envelope, experienced unspeakable horrors that nothing can justify. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes, soldiers are being sent into battle every day to die and be injured, hostages remain in brutal captivity in Gaza with no credible plan to bring them home, and Israeli society is falling deeper and deeper into messianic delusions, political suppression, and a thirst for revenge.

In Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians have died, more than ten thousand of which are children, and additional tens of thousands were wounded. Countless refugees live in tents, suffering from severe hunger and the spread of diseases, without electricity and basic hygiene, and all they can see on all sides are ruins. All this only leads to more hatred against Israel and increased support for Hamas. Ordinary citizens on both sides are paying an unimaginable price in this war, and the situation is only getting worse.

The present and future of Palestinians and Israeli citizens are inseparable. It is not “us” against “them”, and it is not a situation where one side should, or can, defeat the other. Safety and security will only be attained when both sides live with dignity: either we will all lose in war, or we will all win in peace.

Nearly all the people living between the Jordan River to the sea want to live a quiet life. The violent occupation policies, and now the war, prevent this from all of us and push more and more people on both sides to the false belief that only violence can solve the conflict. The war only strengthens the extremists on both sides and their ideologies.

The powers that be tell us, as in all the previous rounds of violence, that this time we will “destroy” Hamas, that this time “deterrence” will work, yet violent and extremist groups only grow stronger under extreme violence. It can be tempting to think that “after we destroy Hamas in the war, then we can achieve real peace and quiet here” , but this is an illusion. It is a story that ignores the fact that Hamas is more than a violent group – it is the product of a violent and extreme mindset that grows and flourishes under conditions of oppression and extreme violence. Hamas can only grow stronger when every alternative, horizon or hope have been denied for decades. It is precisely for this reason that Hamas has only become stronger since the beginning of the war, both in Gaza and the West Bank. Even if the army could kill all the Hamas fighters and dismantle all the tunnels, without a horizon of hope, an even worse organization would arise to fill its place, and the cycle of violence would continue. The real enemy is not Hamas, but rather the extremist mindset it represents, and that is mirrored in Israel. Such thinking can only be dismantled through a political pursuit of peace and by proposing an alternative of hope to the Palestinians.

As the much stronger side, Israel bears most of the responsibility for pursuing this alternative. It has the power to advance a political solution and dictate the tone, changing it to one that promotes peace instead of violence. The only path that can ever lead to a real solution to the conflict is a political one, that includes fair Palestinian independence, and the granting of equal rights to all people from the river to the sea.

When I was 16, I visited the West Bank with my classmates on a school trip. We talked with settlers and Palestinian boys our age. When we spoke with the Palestinian youth, one of my classmates asked what their dream was in life. And one of them answered: “The only dream a person locked in a cage can have, is to get out.”

This sentence has stayed with me, and is now the reason I refuse to enlist: I will not take part in a system that is the problem and not the solution. A system that damages security instead of maintaining it. I refuse to enlist in order to show that change is needed and that change is possible. I refuse to enlist, for the security and safety of all of us in Israel-Palestine, and in the name of empathy that is not restricted by national identity. I refuse to enlist because I want to create a reality in which all children between the river and the sea can dream, without cages.