Following Orders

The Israeli government is due to take up a decision by the Israeli Cabinet to freeze settlement building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).  The news brief on the radio discussing this also played some audio of the protest by members of Regional Councils in Judea and Samaria.

’!אתה לא יכול לעצור אותנו’

“You can’t stop us!”

‘עברנו את פרעה. עברנו את אנטיאוכוס. עברנו את סלהדין.  אנחנו נעבור את אובמהמהמהמהמהמהמה’

“We overcome Pharoah.  We overcome Antiochus.  We overcame Salahadin.  We will overcome Obamamamamamamama…”

A bit dramatic, I think.  While I don’t agree with all of Obama’s policies regarding Israel and don’t think that the Administration fully understands the situation here, I’m not sure to what extent the influence of American foreign policy is akin to major socio-political events that have been turning points in Jewish and Israeli history.

To what extent are we writing history here today?

For Jews who consider themselves da’ati leumi, or National Religious, nationalism and support for Israel is intertwined with their religious observance.  Many view the return of Jews to the Land of Israel as kibbutz galuyot, the ingathering of the exiles that brings along with it the Messianic Era.

Unlike Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) observant Jews who largely do not serve in the army, da’ati leumi Jews make up a considerable portion of commanders, and when strong religious and political beliefs mix with military orders, clashes result.

Lately, the IDF has been facing insubordination from religious troops who have refused or protested the evacuation of Jews from parts of Judea and Samaria.  It hearkens back to the biggest clash between IDF and religious authority, during the Disengagement from Gaza and parts of northern Samaria in the summer of 2005.

If your army service is part of your religious belief, what do you do when the military tells you to do something that goes against that religious belief.  Who do you follow?  Your commander, or your rabbi?

As a Jew who believes in the religious authority of the rabbis, I believe that it is correct to follow their opinion.  But while I do believe that the Jewish State of Israel is a gift from Gd, at the end of the day, it is more human than divine.  The argument should then follow that it is more appropriate to follow Torah, the word of Gd more than the word of a military commander.  However, I believe that something larger is at stake here.

While on one hand, Israel represents the ingathering of Jews from all parts of the world, all backgrounds, and degrees of religious observance and affiliation, it is not a representation of a mixture of them.  Jew stays separate from Jew, and at worst, Jew fights Jew.  The punch line of a well-known Jewish joke makes the point that even on a private island, a Jew would want to have a synagogue to go to and a synagogue that he doesn’t go to.

Jews were expelled from the land because of their failure to get along.  I believe that promoting unity among the Jewish people is an even larger value that is worth the cost of personal sacrifice.  Even if you hold that not one scrap of biblical Israel should be wrested from Jewish hands, fighting the Israeli military for it seems like an attempt to win a battle at the expense of losing the war.

If each political and religious faction of Jew that composes the Israeli military follows his or her own belief, then the chain of command will fall apart.  So will security.  So will the State.

Update: This blog entry was picked up by’s OnFaith blog.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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