Sebastian and wife in South America

Sebastian was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1953. He tells me about the community he grew up in. “We lived in the suburbs,” he tells me. “Most of the social activities were downtown so there was all the time commuting.” Argentina during his youth was under a military dictatorship. During the 1970s, Argentina was in a period of state sponsored repression often called the Dirty War. The country was led by right-wing dictators that used tactics like murder, “disappearing,” and kidnapping against perceived enemies of the state. The regime aimed to ignite fear in the population and prevent groups from opposing their rule. Even today, despite numerous investigations, very little is known about those who disappeared. Investigations have demonstrated that many of them were tortured and killed in hidden concentration camps. The Dirty War sparked a very important social movement in Latin America called the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. A group of mothers of disappeared children marched weekly in the capital. Despite the disappearance of some of the mothers, the group did not stop marching, and they were able to bring international attention to the situation in Argentina.  Sebastian discusses the repression of the time. “Freedom for people like myself was very limited. Young people were suspects all the time.” He goes on to say, “I remember in the last years [I lived in Argentina] the lack of freedom… I remember my parents being more scared of the police than of thieves because of the level of repression that existed at the time there.” Argentina was in a state of constant fear. “Friends of mine disappeared during the dirty war,” Sebastian tells me. “By some counts 30,000 young people disappeared… Women of that age group that had children… their children were either killed or stolen by the military or… given to adoption to friends of the military that could not have children. So it was all really terrible.” You did not have to engage in any actual actions against the government to be considered a suspect, many people were considered suspicious for trivial reasons. Sebastian explains, “Just being young was reason to be suspected… of left wing activities… I was stopped by the police many times. Just because I was walking around, and I had a beard… You were suspect just because of the age group you belonged to.” He has a picture of his volleyball team from high school. He points to a teammate standing next to him in the photo. The young man he is pointing to was disappeared by the military dictatorship. Sebastian recognizes that at the time of his departure, Argentina was a very dangerous place. However, he tells me, “I left because of an outside pull rather than inside push because I decided to go to Israel to help. ” Sebastian left Argentina in order to volunteer to a war. He left his whole life behind – family, friends, his home – because he believed he could serve a purpose abroad. His story continues miles away in Israel.


Video about military dictatorship:

Commemoration of 1976 coup