web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Jewish State, Religious Zionism, And The Limits Of Dissent


David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of the State of Israel, was often quoted in the early years of the state as remarking, “it is not so important what the Gentiles say as what the Jews do.”

This pithy remark reflected the notion that despite the criticism and animus that the Jewish people and the State of Israel were subjected to in international forums and public debates, our strength lay in our unity, wisdom and ability to make good and sound choices to ensure our security and well-being.

At the same time, that remark reflected the ever-present danger that we as a people and as individuals could on occasion be our own worst enemies. This thought comes to mind as one considers the troubling instances (so far, thankfully, few in number) of religious soldiers in the IDF who have expressed public political statements while in uniform indicating that they will refuse orders issued by their commanders and the government to evacuate any Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

More disturbing than that is the fact that a small number of rabbis, associated with the right wing of religious Zionism, have publicly endorsed their move and encouraged their own students to take that route as well.

This type of action and ideology of encouraging refusal of legitimate orders of the IDF because of one’s strong ideological views is not a new phenomenon and was, unfortunately, first encouraged by members of the extreme fringes of left-wing Israeli society in the 1980s and 1990s.

That phenomenon, however, never seemed to take hold in the population at large and did not have the imprimatur of a religious mandate. This new phenomenon of refusal, which first came to the surface during the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, has the potential to be far more widespread and far more divisive. As Prime Minister Netanyahu has rightly noted, this type of action and call to refusal has the potential to destroy the IDF and the State of Israel from within.

To their credit, the vast majority of mainstream religious-Zionist organizations, including the formal arm of the hesder yeshiva movement in Israel, have strongly denounced this phenomenon in no uncertain terms.

It is particularly troubling to see any religious-Zionist rabbi encourage refusal of legitimate orders on ideological grounds. At the heart of classical, mainstream religious-Zionism is the halachic notion, developed by the first chief rabbi of the Land of Israel, the sainted Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak ha-Kohen Kook, that in the absence of a formal king, the power of kingship and sovereignty devolves back to the Jewish people as a whole.

As such, the instrument by which they choose to govern themselves – i.e., the state and government – takes on the status of malchut (Jewish sovereignty) that must be respected.

For two thousand years the Jewish people were unable to exercise their own self-rule. One of the essential changes in the reality of Jewish existence in our day and age is the return of malchut Yisrael. Calls advocating refusal can tear asunder the fabric of the state and substantially weaken the strength and morale of the IDF – thus threatening the security of the state and undermining the unique privilege we have to foster and develop malchut Yisrael.

The State of Israel and the IDF have a code of ethics that delineates situations in which orders must be refused. These refer to “blatantly illegal orders” such as a command to wantonly murder unarmed civilians. The situations that are being discussed in our context are clearly not such a case. The issues at hand are ones in which complex political, ideological, halachic and diplomatic factors are at play, with divergent opinions and analyses on all sides.

People of good will can have varying perspectives as to the wisdom and efficacy of territorial compromise and its long-term impact on the security of Israel. Ultimately, however it is the democratically elected Israeli government that is the legal sovereign with the authority to make these difficult and wrenching calls.

It would, of course, be ideal if the IDF were not used in any such operations and the Israeli police alone could handle such missions in order to keep the IDF as far from divisive political issues as possible.

About the Author: Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot is chair of the departments of Tanach and Jewish Thought at Yeshivat Chovevei Rabbinical School; is on the faculty of SAR High School; and is spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, New Jersey.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Jewish State, Religious Zionism, And The Limits Of Dissent”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Do you know where your vegetables grow?
Not So Kosher Shemittah L’Mehadrin
Latest Indepth Stories
Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

More Articles from Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot
haredi dropouts

Many of the talented and motivated individuals who leave the Haredi world could choose Modern Orthodoxy, but they don’t.

The latest round in the broader canvas of debates about the approach of Modern Orthodoxy to the role of women in communal life has focused on the issue of learned Orthodox women receiving some form of rabbinic ordination and serving as rabbis or clergy.

As Super Bowl weekend approaches the signs at the local takeout stores in Modern Orthodox neighborhoods (and even some haredi ones as well, but I limit my discussion here to the former as that is my community) abound with signs advertising gigantic food package options with catchy names such as the “Linebacker” or the “Halftimer.”

A few weeks ago I was completing the silent amidah at the morning minyan I attend in my local shul. Suddenly, a cold breeze shot through the room. I headed back to the door of the bet midrash where we pray and saw that a young observant woman I know had propped the door slightly ajar in order to hear the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei and the reading of the Torah.

David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of the State of Israel, was often quoted in the early years of the state as remarking, “it is not so important what the Gentiles say as what the Jews do.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-jewish-state-religious-zionism-and-the-limits-of-dissent/2009/12/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: