And That's an Order?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

International pressure is mounting on the Netanyahu government to freeze—and eventually remove—Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Simultaneously, a heated domestic debate is taking place within the national-religious (Dati Leumi) community over whether religious soldiers can, if push comes to shove, resist a government order to remove settlers from their homes.

The argument resonates most strongly in the "Hesder" yeshivot, higher-level schools whose students alternate periods of Talmud study with active military duty. Yesterday, the heads of Har Etzion, a flagship Hesder yeshiva, issued a strong statement against disobedience.

The issue is made more acute by the fact that so many religious soldiers themselves grew up in settlements. Not only that, but the national-religious camp increasingly fills the ranks of elite combat units and the IDF officer corps as a whole; indeed, the Hesder yeshivot are hotbeds of youthful idealism, and their internal debates are passionate.

Meanwhile, the children of secular elites increasingly gravitate toward non-combatant roles or choose not to enlist at all. Zeev Sternhell, a leading historian and secular public intellectual, recently offered a sterling example of how not to advance the discussion.

As for Jewish tradition, David Golinkin points out its ample precedents for heeding the call of conscience and higher law over and against even legitimate authority. Here as elsewhere, adapting that tradition to the relentless, complex demands of contemporary Jewish sovereignty is both difficult and necessary.

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