It started with a tweet. Just a day after posting about a leaked call sheet for the upcoming Cats: The Musical movie (“I think it’s safe to assume that Taylor legally changed her name to Bombalurina”) and jabbing at the faint-hearted producers on The James Corden Show (“Post a Carpool Karaoke with Taylor, you cowards”), @LegitTayUpdates, whose Taylor Swift parody fan account ballooned to 14 thousand followers over the last year, announced she would be taking a leave of absence. While this isn’t unusual for those who stumble into unexpected viral fame, the owner of @LegitTayUpdates’ explanation garnered a fair bit of attention.
“So I think most of you know (?) but i’m going to prison tomorrow for refusing to enlist in the military, which i know sounds kinda funny, but also means I’ll be gone for a while (not sure how long),” @LegitTayUpates wrote on February 1. “So uhhh no more me pissing you guys off for a while. What a relief, huh?”
For the next two months, @LegitTayUpates, who has since been revealed as a now-19-year-old teenager named Na’ama, went, for the most part, radio silent. That is, until she took Twitter by storm Tuesday night and revealed how, exactly, a popular T-Swift parodist (and, it turns out, actual teen) wound up in an Israeli prison. The below exchange was captured in a tweet which soon garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets.
If you’re unfamiliar, the state of Israel and its sole military wing, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), share not just a birth year — 1948 —- but an ideology: To protect their territory and to prove so battle-tested, so ready, as to deter “all enemies.”
Since its establishment, the IDF has relied on mandatory conscription from its all of its Jewish, Druze and Circassian citizens, both men and women. At 18, eligible soldiers are expected to enlist. For men, the sentence is roughly three years; for women, it’s two. The only clear deferment is on religious grounds, and Orthodox women are one of the few major groups allowed to fulfill their compulsory service through civic, rather than strictly military roles.
There are no official statistics for how many young Israelis refuse to enlist for non-religious purposes, but the numbers are reportedly extremely low — a 2017 piece in the Independent pegged the number of women refusing to serve over the two previous years to be around 10. Despite the opaque numbers, the consequence of refusing to enlist is clear: prison time, an amount seemingly so hazy that IDF objectors, like Na’ama, surrender themselves without a clear release date on the horizon.
While @LegitTayUpdates stayed quiet while Na’ama served time, her personal Twitter, @iknowplacesmp6, was seemingly being run by a friend referred to as Noya. Every few weeks, Noya, who also runs a T-Swift fan account, posted handwritten letters from Na’ama, detailing prison hijinks ranging from taking contraband edibles for her birthday to slapping a guard.
By the time that Na’ama logged back into @LegitTayUpdates, she arrived surrounded by a cloud of Twitter-born mythology: the Gay Pro-Palestine Political Objector T-Swift Parodist Who Spent Her Prison Sentence Punching Guards and Doing Drugs. It’s a truly 2019 amalgamation of politics, comedy, internet culture and violence. Nothing, maybe, has ever been more on brand.
Though there is no clear way to fact-check whether Na’ama did, actually, spend several months in prison, her political beliefs have continuously been at the forefront of what is otherwise a largely satirical online presence.
“BLM,” the acronym for Black Lives Matter, has held a prominent position in the @LegitTayUpdates bio for months.
The first tweet from the @LegitTayUpdates, in July 2018, was a link to the Flint Water Fund: “UPDATE|| Taylor Swift’s name spelled backwards is Tfiws Rolyat! Also, Flint STILL DOESN’T HAVE CLEAN WATER!!!”
Since going viral, Na’ama has begun doing the interview rounds. In one of her latest tweets, posted just a day after being released from prison, Na’ama wrote that this whole situation — her refusal to enlist, her prison sentence — “didn’t seem like a big deal.” Interviews about it feel “weird.” We reached out to see if she was up for sharing more about her story and we will update this if we hear back.