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Violating the Law of Land Warfare

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Violating the Law of Land Warfare

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell

CH (COL) USAR- Retired

War has been part of human history for as long as we know. In the Torah, , by Genesis 14 Avram is doing battle with 4 local kings, and his nephew Lot is captured. Avram is forced to recruit 318 individuals to rescue him.

Judaism is a peace loving tradition. Shalom. Peace. The Hebrew word “Shalom” comes from a root meaning “wholeness.” Without peace, something fundamental is missing. Without peace, all other blessings are diminished. Prayers for peace permeate Jewish liturgy. Our prayers are incomplete without prayers for peace. We read in Deuteronomy 20:10 that terms of peace must be offered before we resort to violence.


Yet, Judaism is not a pacifist tradition. We recognize that there are times when war becomes tragically necessary. This moment seems to be one of them. The horrific attacks on non-combatants defies and defiles our common humanity

It was in the late 20th century that terrorism escalated into a military tactic. Prior to that, civilized societies honored the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. The Hague Convention specified that military members distinguish themselves by their uniforms. The Geneva Convention stipulated that it is members of the armed forces who are legitimate targets. It specified the humane treatment of civilians.


As I witness the killing and kidnapping of children, the elderly, and individuals who pose no military threat, I am appalled, disgusted, horrified at the level to which the enemy has descended. There is absolutely no excusing the behavior of Hamas, and how truly awful that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will be required to respond in ways that threaten innocent civilians.

The IDF Code states that “the soldier shall make use of weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; they will maintain their humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all they can to avoid harming their lives, body, honor and property.”


Would that the enemies of Israel had a similar code of ethics.

I want to express my gratitude to my non-Jewish friends and especially my colleagues in the military who have reached out with kindness and caring. Your love is palpable and meaningful. Israel and the Jewish people need all of our friends at this incredibly painful moment. Thank you for being a friend.


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