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Judaism: War and Pacifism

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Shoni Vaknin Tuesday 23rd September Describe Jewish teachings on War and Pacifism Jewish beliefs on war and pacifism vary hugely from person to person, but there are certain guidelines that every Jew follows and believes in. The definition of war is two or more countries engaged in killing/attacks with weapons or heavy artillery. There is also a verbal war in which two governments don't agree on a very important issue and begin debating about it. There are two types of war that Jews believe in: � the first is a Milchemet Mitzvah which is an obligatory war, this is a war that Jews will fight if the enemy has attacked first or if an attack needs to be pre-empt. � the second is a Milchemet Reshut which is an optional war; this is a war that has been entered into of one's own accord. War should be avoided by all means necessary and should not be entered into for many reasons such as to create political advantage, to enhance national security where ...read more.


Thousands of years ago, Jews believed that there was such a thing as a 'Holy war' and many of the Biblical tales of war are bloodthirsty and aggressive. Nowadays, the term is not used because in Judaism the concept does not exist and they have no way of knowing truthfully if God approves it. They used to have a Sanhedrin, which is a court of people who decided what was acceptable and what wasn't. Although a large part of Israel's population is Jewish, Israel is not a 'Jewish' state; it is a secular state run by elected politicians, not by Rabbis. Most of the leaders are Jews and the citizens of Israel pressure their government to always take Jewish teachings into consideration over major and minor decisions. In Israel, military service is mandatory and every citizen, who is mentally and physically capable of an army job, must join. The only exception is a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews who can refuse to serve because the majority do not recognize the 'secular authority of the Israeli government'. ...read more.


The basis for belief in peace comes from the Ethics of the Fathers 1:18 'The world endures on three things - justice, truth and peace.' Jews aren't total pacifists because they still fight, but only because it's necessary and in a perfect world they would believe that all problems can be resolved without violence. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews who don't do military service are pacifists because they see no logical reason for war. A few other Jewish people are pacifists, but the majority isn't, and they try to get their points across when it comes to political issues that could result in war. They think that the quote from Psalm 29:11 'Hashem will bless His Nation with peace' means God wants them to let Him give them peace and that there is no need for conflict. Judaism is not a pacifist religion, but the people always believe that trying to bring peace is the first choice and if that ultimately doesn't work then controlled violence becomes the next option. War is always regrettable but not always wrong. By Shoni Vaknin ...read more.

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