PORTLAND – Fourteen of us from the U.S., the U.K. and Japan sat in a small office in Tel Aviv in mid-May, listening to four Israeli veterans tell their personal stories about refusing to serve in the occupied West Bank.

All four are members of Combatants for Peace (CFP), an organization of Israelis and Palestinians who agree to disagree about specifics, including the two-state solution and the BDS (Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions) campaign, but insist that “a violent solution to the conflict is impossible.”

After returning home, I encountered statements totally at odds with the spirit of what I had learned from the Combatants for Peace.

I heard Nadav Tamir, Israeli consul general to New England, defend his country’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and the raid on the humanitarian aid flotilla that left nine people dead.

Perry Newman of South Portland said in a newspaper article that the crew of the Mavi Marmara was “overcome by terrorists wearing flak jackets, bearing weapons and stun grenades and carrying more than 1 million euros hidden on their persons.”

One CFP member we met, Idan Meir, had a grandfather who fought in the 1948 war and whose father was a paratrooper in 1967, 1973 and 1982.

Meir himself was a sniper in a naval commando unit, serving in Lebanon in 1997 when his best friend and 11 other members of his unit were ambushed.

Delegated to tell his friend’s mother that her son was dead, he decided he could not serve in the armed forces any longer.

Meir studied theater and became a high school teacher.

While searching for material for a documentary, he met Bassam Aramin, who had spent seven years in an Israeli jail, starting at age 17, for taking part in the Palestinian struggle.

After his release, Aramin renounced violence and helped found CFP in 2005.

Two years later, his 10-year-old daughter was killed, probably by a rubber bullet, as she walked home from school.

This incident led Meir to start to “see things differently.”

He incorporated it into a new play, “Bassam,” about mothers being unable to save their children from war.

“Bassam” has been produced in Tel Aviv starring a famous Israeli actor, Shlomo Vishinsky, and has been presented as a reading in translation in London.

The other veterans we met told us about their own turning points — acts of cruelty or chance meetings with Palestinians — and the long process that led to their commitment to non-violence.

CFP has five active groups, each with about 30 members — equal numbers of Israelis and Palestinians — plus about 500 members who support the organization.

They lecture about non-violence, organize groups that work among Israelis and Palestinians abroad, and take Israelis on tours of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

CFP uses drama to help people explore their feelings about the conflict.

A recent performance took place on a blocked road between a Palestinian village and an Israeli settlement, with an audience of about 40 Israelis and 30 Palestinians.

The plot involved an old villager who arrives at a checkpoint and a soldier who tries to decide whether to let him pass. After the performance, audience members were invited to role-play and talk about their reactions.

We 14 tourists heard other similar “Israeli voices.”

One was Jeff Halper, an American Jew born in Brookline, Mass., who immigrated to Israel in 1973.

Halper is director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 by the American Friends Service Committee. He describes the day that turned him from protester to activist:

He saw bulldozers of Israel’s military government in the West Bank demolish a Palestinian home for no valid reason, “an act so unjust, so brutal, so at odds with the ethos of the benign, democratic Jewish Israel fighting for its survival that I had absorbed.”

We also encountered hundreds of Israelis at a weekly demonstration protesting their government’s confiscation of Palestinian homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

They chanted and sang that “Sheikh Jarrah is Palestinian” in Hebrew and English and waved signs in both languages, one reading “Obama — Force Peace On Us.”

Voices such as these are not frequently reported in the media in this country. They are diametrically opposite to what people like Nadav Tamir and Perry Newman are saying. We in America need to listen and learn from them.