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Monday, January 26, 2009

Leftists furious over religious materials distributed to IDF soldiers

I should put one statistic on the table at the front of this post: Four of the ten soldiers killed in Operation Cast Lead were religious Jews. And that number reflects the percentage of religious Jews in the IDF's combat troops: 40%. The percentage of religious Jews (and by 'religious,' I mean practicing Orthodox Jews) is about 20%. The IDF's combat troops and especially their officer corps (where the percentage is rumored to be higher than 40%) is disproportionately Orthodox - more specifically 'National Religious' as we call it here. That's a phenomenon I discussed here and here.

Because so many combat soldiers are religious, the IDF Rabbinate corps played a larger role in Operation Cast Lead than ever before. The Rabbis were with the soldiers in Gaza, and gave them encouragement in pursuing the operation's goals. Israel's Hebrew 'Palestinian' daily is not happy with what the Rabbis were telling the soldiers. Here's why:
A reservist battalion rabbi told the religious newspaper B'Sheva last week that [IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai] Rontzki explained to his staff that their role was not "to distribute wine and challah for Shabbat to the troops," but "to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit."

An overview of some of the army rabbinate's publications made available during the fighting reflects the tone of nationalist propaganda that steps blatantly into politics, sounds racist and can be interpreted as a call to challenge international law when it comes to dealing with enemy civilians.

Haaretz has received some of the publications through Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers who collect evidence of unacceptable behavior in the army vis-a-vis Palestinians. Other material was provided by officers and men who received it during Operation Cast Lead. Following are quotations from this material:

"[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it." This is an excerpt from a publication entitled "Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead," issued by the IDF rabbinate. The text is from "Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner," who heads the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. [Deuteronomy 7:2 and the Rabbis' gloss on it says "you shall not give them a place in the land. CiJ]

The following questions are posed in one publication: "Is it possible to compare today's Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David?" Rabbi Aviner is again quoted as saying: "A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land ... They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country ... Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence." [That's a statement of historical fact. CiJ]

The IDF rabbinate, also quoting Rabbi Aviner, describes the appropriate code of conduct in the field: "When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers. 'A la guerre comme a la guerre.'" [Deuteronomy 20:13. CiJ]

This view is also echoed in publications signed by Rabbis Chen Halamish and Yuval Freund on Jewish consciousness. Freund argues that "our enemies took advantage of the broad and merciful Israeli heart" and warns that "we will show no mercy on the cruel." [The Talmud in the tractate of Yevamoth (Levirate marriages) discusses the concept that one who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind. It's looked upon quite badly - to put it mildly. CiJ].

In addition to the official publications, extreme right-wing groups managed to bring pamphlets with racist messages into IDF bases. One such flyer is attributed to "the pupils of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg" - the former rabbi at Joseph's Tomb and author of the article "Baruch the Man," which praises Baruch Goldstein, who massacred unarmed Palestinians in Hebron. It calls on "soldiers of Israel to spare your lives and the lives of your friends and not to show concern for a population that surrounds us and harms us. We call on you ... to function according to the law 'kill the one who comes to kill you.' As for the population, it is not innocent ... We call on you to ignore any strange doctrines and orders that confuse the logical way of fighting the enemy." [Talmud Sanhedrin (Courts) 62 based upon Exodus 22:1 - If someone comes to kill you, you are to kill him first. CiJ]

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din has called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to immediately remove Rabbi Rontzki from his post as chief rabbi.

In response, an IDF spokesman said that: "Overall, letters that are sent to the chief of staff [such as the request for Rontzki's dismissal] are reviewed and an answer is sent to those who make the request, not to the media."
Rabbi Meir Kahane HY"D (may God avenge his blood) used to do this kind of stuff to the Left all the time. He would quote passages from scripture and let them claim that they were 'racist' or 'anti-Democratic.' I have inserted in italics some of the sources for the quoted material. That the Left doesn't like being Jewish is not surprising. We've seen it many times over the years.

There's another answer to the Left: If they want to change how the army is, let them serve in the combat units too. The army has been becoming more and more religious for many years now, even after the Gaza expulsion when many people thought religious soldiers would stop signing up for combat units. Don't expect the Left to start volunteering anytime soon.


At 10:10 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

In the past, the best soldiers came from secular kibbutzim (the Zionist Left) and they formed the core of Israel's future political elite. Today, the best soldiers come from national religious and orthodox background and they form the core of Israel's future political elite. That has Israel's Left in a fury. One needs only to see the interview with David Shapira, the hero of Mercaz Ha Rav to understand why they are upset. The Jewish hero looks to G-d as the source of Israel's strength, as the inspiration of the Jew and for whom the Jew is prepared to die. Hamas thinks it is fighting Jews who have no faith and love of country. What they don't understand is they're fighting Jews who love G-d, revere life and who view the Land Of Israel as sacred. Those are the kind of soldiers Israel's enemies cannot hope to overcome.

And when coupled with national leaders possessed by a similar spirit, Israel will look indomitable to her enemies.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


It's a long way for the IDF's elite to become the political elite, and religious Jews in particular will be fought by the Left every step of the way.

Religious Jews are still a minority in this country. And at its highest echelons the IDF remains predominantly (almost unanimously) secular. Ask Effie Eitam (who was passed over for general staff and retired as the highest ranking religious officer ever).

If the establishment accepts religious Jews into the IDF and the political elite, it's more likely to be sycophants like Elazar Stern (who has tried to force Yeshivot Hesder to close) than the types of people you have in mind.

As cynical as you are, you'd be more cynical if you lived here.


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