Judaism: attitudes towards fighting and warfare
Most religions offer teaching on war and conflict. And over time religion has been at the heart of conflict between nations.
Jewish attitudes to war and peace are based on the teachings of the Jewish Scriptures.
In the Jewish Scriptures there are examples of wars. Some of these were Holy Wars where the Jews were trying to maintain their religion when other people wanted to make them worship false gods. Others were perhaps ‘Just Wars’ but it could be argued that some of them were wrong and unjustified.
Judaism teaches that there are three kinds of wars which must be fought:
Jewish people are required to protect themselves and others, and also to help other countries in order to prevent the spread of war.
Self-defence is also allowed:
If a person intends to kill you, be first to kill him.
Judaism says that wars must be fought properly and humanely:
If your foe is hungry, feed him bread; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
The struggle for peace and justice is a very important Jewish teaching:
The world endures on three things – justice, truth and peace
Ethics of the Fathers 1:18
In G-d’s eyes the man stands high who makes peace between men… But he stands highest who establishes peace among the nations.
‘Shalom’ (peace) also means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.
Judaism believes that most wars are wrong and that they must try for peace before fighting.
Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.
So, although Judaism is not a purely pacifist [Pacifism: Opposition to war or violence as a means to settling disputes. ] religion, it does believe that peace is the highest good.