Posts Tagged ‘war’

 First session in a series on the ‘The “Jewishness” of Israel’

On Thursday, October 28, the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI), in partnership with the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) “Harel” brigade  and the Givat Hatachmoshet organization (Ammunition Hill Museum) will hold a special event  in honor of author Dr. Nachum Baruchi. The event, “Jerusalem–War and Peace,” will feature lectures and discussion by prominent guest speakers. Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs will address the subject of the strategic status of Jerusalem. Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, president of SHI, will speak about the “The Vision of Jerusalem in Judaism,” focusing on the critical issues that make Jerusalem one of the most controversial cities in the world.  

The event will honor the publication of a new book by Six Day War veteran Dr. Baruchi, entitled, “The Harel Division in the Six Day War,” which recounts Dr. Baruchi’s experiences as a commander in the Harel Brigade, and the battles the unit faced on the way to uniting Jerusalem during the 1967 war.

On the site of one of the most crucial battles that ultimately allowed the IDF to gain access to the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, “Jerusalem: War and Peace” will seek to break through the rhetoric of political slogans and religious divisions that have come to cloud debates about Jerusalem. The goal of the discussion is to explore core ideas and concepts regarding the role of Jerusalem within Judaism, in the hope that such an exploration can lead to new approaches, possibilities, and solutions, and ultimately, to peace.

Facilitating this SHI-sponsored event is Colonel (reserved) Ya’akov Castel, director of the Shalom Hartman Institute Lev Aharon program, which provides  seminars for senior IDF officers. Over 1,000 senior officers a year participate in this unprecedented leadership training experience, exploring intersections of Jewish and Israeli identity, Zionism, religious pluralism, and the complex interplay between Judaism, democracy, and morality in Israeli society. For additional information on the Lev Aharon program see: http://www.hartman.org.il/Center_Edu/Program_View.asp?Program_Id=19


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Has there ever been a more contentious time in Jerusalem than now? Or is that a joke? It has always been the most contentious time in Jerusalem: invaders, occupants, takeovers, fences, walls, barbed wire, combat, fire, and more are in the earthly history of Jerusalem.

Yet now, while we hope and pray there is never again a shooting war in Jerusalem, is a particularly contentious time where the future of Jerusalem as an earthly and spiritual city, as well as the capital(s?) of state(s?) is under heated discussion. It seems that every apartment built, every synagogue reopened, every road/street repair causes someone to get agitated, from the President of the United States to the lowliest local resident. I do not mean to equate all of these concerns; some are clearly more serious on a global, political, and spiritual basis than others. But it does make for lively discussion when the city’s Mayor is snubbed by the White House and the Interior Minister is invited.

Herein, then, in advance of this year’s Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day – May 12, 2010)  are several articles and essays by Hartman Institute scholars on this city of many faiths, many constituents, and residents:

One Mount, Two Religions, Three Proposals

A set of surprising suggestions and recommendations for how to address perhaps the most argued over spot on Earth: the Temple Mount/Har Habayit/Haram Ash-Sharif/Mount Moriah/Noble Sanctuary from Hartman Institute’s Menachem Fisch, Israel Knohl, and Elhanan Reiner.

Professor Israel Knohl relates to the partial fulfillment of Yeshayahu’s vision; Professor Elhanan Reiner explains the idea behind aliyah le’regel; and Professor Menachem Fisch explains that the holiness of place is not connected to ownership.

Donniel Hartman: Divide Jerusalem to unite it

Jerusalem must be a divided city – divided among all aspects and ideologies of Israeli society, for only as a divided city can it be united as the capital of all Israelis. Jerusalem must be a safe city – safe for all expressions of Jewishness.

Jerusalem will achieve this only when we recognize that the city is no one’s unless it is all of ours, and when there is a new spirit in which we all actively pursue public policies that give room and respect for us all, not only our personal agendas.

Donniel Hartman: This summer in Jerusalem – heat and holiness

Jerusalem is not just the place where we convene; it is the place that enables the convention. It is in this capacity that I experienced the holiness of Jerusalem, a holiness which fosters respect, loyalty, and mutual consideration. May this be the Jerusalem we all get to experience, for this is when Jerusalem is truly a city of gold.

Rani Yaeger: Heavenly Jerusalem, Earthly Jerusalem

Forty one years after the reunification of the city’s east and west, it is time to unify heavenly Jerusalem and earthly Jerusalem. We must temper our veneration with criticism, and our criticism with veneration, neither glorifying the city so much we cannot see her flaws, nor deploring her so much we have no desire to correct them. Only once we stop loving Jerusalem from afar, once we eradicate the barriers of idealized images and disappointed dreams, will the 2,000-year exile from the city really come to an end. Only then will Jerusalem become our home.

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Update, March 16, 2010: The meme continues. Here’s another piece (this one by Irwin J. Mansdorf) on engaging new forms of conversation between Israel and the world: The Hasbara challenge: We can’t counter Arab PR by telling people Israel invented cell phone

A new Israeli government effort to bring the average “Yossi Israeli” into the ongoing effort at getting Israel’s position across to average individuals and the media to combat negative perceptions, stereotypes, and anti-Israel sentiment is getting a significant amount of attention in the media, Jewish and otherwise.

The website Masbirim will attempt to begin training Israelis to speak on behalf of Israel when the opportunity arises. It also contains satirical videos poking fun at how poorly Israel is understood or known beyond stereotypes of violence and backwardness. As with much satire, the quality of the work has been widely debated, as well. (more…)

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Noam Zion is in a “historic one-month scholar-in-residence program” at Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas, Texas: “The Bernard “Beanie” Siegel Scholar-in-Residence Program – “GPS Judaism: Finding Your Place in the Jewish Tradition.” Click here to see the entire month-long program. More details here and here.

Alick Isaacs spoke on the subject, “The Meaning of Israel in Contemporary Jewish Life,” at University of California, Irvine, on January 27, 2010.

Menachem Lorberbaum spoke on the subject, “Religion and Politics in a Post-Secular Age,” on January 25, 2010, at Taube Center on Jewish Studies, and Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages, Stanford University.

Moshe Halbertal is scheduled to speak at the upcoming AIPAC Policy Conference, March 21-23, in Washington, DC, on a panel titled, “Israel Today – Ethical Defense: Israel’s Unparalleled Moral Battle Code.” For more information, click here.

Halbertal is also scheduled to speak at the University of Chicago, on the subject, “The Moral Challenges of Asymmetrical War: The Case of Israel,” on February 18, 2010. Click here for details.

Halbertal will also speak at the University of Chicago Divinity School as part of a three-lecture series titled, Political Theory. Legal Theory. Classical Jewish Texts: Three interdisciplinary presentations engaging the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic Literature.” His February 17, 2010, lecture is titled, “At the Threshold of Forgiveness: Law and Narrative in the Talmud.” Details here.

Halbertal led a discussion at Queens College in New York City on February 16, 2010, on the subject:  “’War Crimes’” and “’Just Peace’”: Ethical Battles in the Arab-Israeli Conflict” at the University’s Center for Ethnic, racial and Religious Understanding.

Bill Berk is scheduled to give a Passover teaching at Congregation Beit Shalom, Visalia, California, on the topics, “What Was the Real Pesach Miracle?,” and “How to Prepare for a Transformational Seder?” on March 28, 2010. Click here for details.

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In accepting his Nobel Prize for Peace on Thursday, December 10, 2010, US President Barack Obama defended (text of speech here from Nobel website) the morality of a military seeking to bring peace to a conflict-torn land and the theory that some wars are just:

Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics, and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

He went on to talk of terrorism, the changing nature of war in the 21st century, and the implacable warmongering of al-Qaeda. Yet he returned to the nature of how to conduct war:

To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason….

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct.

It is in the approach even to participation in a just war that separates the moral from the immoral, as Donniel Hartman wrote in early 2009 during Israel’s short war in Gaza:

In a war against a terrorist regime such as Hamas, there is great moral clarity…. Having initiated years of ongoing missile attacks against the citizens of southern Israel, killing and injuring, both physically and mentally, hundreds of individuals, and making the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens untenable, it was a clear moral responsibility to defend our citizens and to attempt to create a new situation under which attacks would no longer occur. It was also necessary to act today to preempt further attacks that would only be more deadly, as Hamas continues to smuggle longer-range and more powerful missiles into Gaza. While no one is certain that the war will achieve the desired outcome, this debate has no effect on the morality of the attempt.

Yet Donniel also recognized that steps must be taken – even in the heat of battle – to prosecute that war in a moral fashion:

Asking these questions and engaging in moral self-evaluation, even in the middle of war, is not a sign of weakness. Rather, what we in Israel have learned is that our strength as a country and the fortitude of our army and soldiers are grounded in a significant way on our moral fiber and our soldiers’ recognition that they are part of a just cause and a just army.

Donniel Hartman also addressed the “proportional” force argument:

The measure of moral ambiguity that may exist in the eyes of some is grounded on the disparity of military capability between Israel and Hamas, a disparity which may question the legitimacy of the premise of self-defense. Hamas as a terrorist organization aims to terrorize, and as such has a limited ability to endanger Israel’s basic existence. While it may harm individual citizens, Hamas does not endanger the state as a whole.

It is under the cloud of this moral ambiguity that much of the criticism against Israel finds shelter. The justification of self defense dissipates when one compares Kassam rockets and mortar shells and their casualty toll with the might of the Israeli army and the consequences of its actions. Furthermore, it is also this reality which fuels the calls for proportionality in which the use of force on Israel’s side, it is claimed, must match that of the enemy it attacks. A “disproportionate” response is classified as unjust, for it is no longer contained or justified under the rubric of self-defense.

The moral difficulty, if not corruption, entailed within the above argument lies in the fact that it essentially allows terrorist organizations to terrorize with impunity, and morally handcuffs a society’s legitimate right to defend itself not merely when its existence is threatened, but when the lives of some of its citizens are in danger and many more are subjected to the effects of terror.

President Obama did not go into the nuances of “proportional response” theory in his speech, yet it is just that issue of proportionality which is haunting Israel in international forums today.

I would recommend that the President not only read Donniel Hartman’s article, but also take the time to review the lengthy piece on “Just War Theory” on the fascinating website, “The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” which says (in part): “The second principle of just conduct is that any offensive action should remain strictly proportional to the objective desired.”

This would not seem to limit the actors in a just war to a “tit for tat” response, that is, you shot one bullet at me, so I am limited to one bullet. It does suggest that using nuclear weapons for a limited goal, such as ending border interdictions and kidnappings, for example, would not be moral. But it does not seem to limit a responding party:

Proportionality…requires tempering the extent and violence of warfare to minimize destruction and casualties. It is broadly utilitarian in that it seeks to minimize overall suffering….

There’s a great deal more that can be said about this. Hillel’s famous dictum, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you, that’s the whole Torah,” is followed by a second part: “Now go and study.”

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A student who attended the Religion and the Challenge of Modernity conference at Grand Valley State University in Michigan earlier this month had this to say about Donniel Hartman’s presentation there:

Donniel Hartman, the first lecturer of the day at this conference, did a very good job not only presenting his thoughts, but introducing a theme that could be common in almost every religion. We all have our challenges with modernity, and it creates multiple identities. When we have these multiple identities, we tend to lose sight of who we really are. Years ago, if you referred to someone as Jewish, you knew everything you needed to know about them. Now-a-days this isn’t necessarily the case. People now have more complex identities. (more…)

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The London Times (sorry, Times of London) is reporting that – according to Western intelligence sources – Iran has:

perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb

Leaving aside whether we can actually believe that story – assuming it is nearly true if not completely so, that’s a terrible thing, right? Maybe, just maybe, this crisis can be turned into an opportunity; at least that’s the opinion of Shalom Hartman Institute’s Moshe Halbertal. More than a year ago, before this position became the de facto policy of the United States, Moshe wrote:

The Iranian bomb may be a destabilizing force in the region, a watershed in the nuclear arms race and a potential catalyst for World War III. It is also, however, a tremendous opportunity….

It is the jihadization of the conflict which, paradoxically, harbors the possibility of its dissolution. Arab national regimes, once quite content to allow radical Islam to spearhead their war against Israel for them, now find themselves within the fatal range of the nuclear monster they’ve helped create. Millions of Arabs are now realizing, perhaps for the first time, that the prospect of a nuclear jihad is every bit a threat to them as it is to Israel. The Iranian bomb is indeed a destabilizing force in the region, though not quite in the usual sense of the term; driving a wedge into the Arab front, it places the vast majority of the Arab world squarely on the strategic side of the West.

For more unconventional yet logical thinking from Halbertal on this, click here for his full essay.

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