WWS Calendar

Justifing Israel's Wars in Jewish Law: Challenges and Solutions

Jan 21, 2015 04:00PM to 06:00PM
012 Bendheim Hall


Open to the Public
Robert Eisen, Professor of Religion and Judaic Studies, George Washington University

Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, Near Eastern Studies and Program in Judaic Studies

When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, it was immediately thrust into war, and religious Zionist rabbis were confronted with the challenge of constructing a body of Jewish law to deal with this turn of events. Laws for war had to be “constructed” here because Jewish law developed mostly during centuries in which Jews had no state and no army, and therefore in this literature, there was only a meager amount of material that addressed the subject of war. In consequence, rabbis in the religious Zionist camp had to use great creativity and ingenuity to create laws dealing with this issue. Moreover, one of the major difficulties that these rabbis faced were elements in Jewish law that made it very difficult to justify war of any kind, even wars of self-defense. My talk will focus on these problems and how they were dealt with. I will draw on the thinking of the major religious Zionist figures, including R. Abraham Isaac Kook, R. Sha’ul Yisraeli, and R. Shlomo Goren. A major question will be whether Jewish law conceives of laws regulating war as a body of norms separate from those governing everyday life, or whether they are an extension of the latter.