The rise of Israel’s military rabbis – theocracy with guns?
Israel’s army is changing. Once proudly secular, its combat units are now filling with those who believe Israel’s wars are “God’s wars”.
Military rabbis are becoming more powerful. Trained in warfare as well as religion, new army regulations mean they are now part of a military elite.
They graduate from officer’s school and operate closely with military commanders. One of their main duties is to boost soldiers’ morale and drive, even on the front line.
This has caused quite some controversy in Israel. Should military motivation come from men of God, or from a belief in the state of Israel and keeping it safe?
The military rabbis rose to prominence during Israel’s invasion of Gaza earlier this year. Gal Einav, a non-religious soldier said there was wall-to-wall religious rhetoric in the base, the barracks and on the battlefield. As soon as soldiers signed for their rifles, he said, they were given a book of psalms. And, as his company headed in to Gaza, he told me, they were flanked by a civilian rabbi on one side and a military rabbi on the other…
Rabbis handed out hundreds of religious pamphlets during the Gaza war. When they came to light, they caused huge controversy in Israel. Some leaflets called Israeli soldiers the “sons of light” and Palestinians, the “sons of darkness”. Others compared the Palestinians to the Philistines, the bitter biblical enemy of the Jewish people.
Israel’s military has distanced itself from the publications, but they carried the army’s official stamp…
Gal Einav thinks many soldiers will refuse to close settlements down. The settlement issue could well tear the army apart, he told me, adding that most of his officers are settlers these days.
“If it comes to a clash between political orders from Israel’s government and a contradictory message from the rabbis, settlers and religious right-wing soldiers will follow the rabbis,” he said.
RTFA. Not unlike the tasks committed to Bush’s Holy Campaigners within our own military. With one significant difference. Israel’s government is so politically beholden to the Orthodox religious Right, that government endorses the participation and direction of rabbis within the rule of their army.
Officers can discuss and differ over levels of responsibility. I don’t think they stand a chance when it comes to who obeys whom. It’s all not unlike what Stalin did with commissars in the desperation of the Great Patriotic War. And, then, the commissar system carried over into daily life.
The Holy State of Israel will complete the task of becoming a theocracy. Civilian and military.