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Religious Studies

Judaism: attitudes towards fighting and warfare

Wars which must be fought

Judaism teaches that there are three kinds of wars which must be fought:

  • Milchemet mitzvah is a war commanded by G-d and is similar to a Holy War. There are two examples of this in the Jewish Scriptures: once when Jewish people fought to protect themselves from the Amalek tribe; and the time when Joshua and the Israelites fought to return to the Promised Land. (The conditions for this type of war are that the enemy must have attacked first or there is a need to prevent an attack.)
  • Milchemet reshut is an optional war and could be called a ‘Just War’. The war must be a last resort: non-violent solutions should have been tried first; civilians should not be targeted and damage should be limited. This type of war has not happened since the fall of the Temple in 70CE.
  • The Six Day War 1967

    Israeli army during the Six Day War

    A pre-emptive war can only be fought when an attack upon Israel is imminent. This happened in 1967, when Israel attacked the airfields of Egypt and Syria in the Six-day War to prevent a siege.

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