Aug 17, 2006
In a mission planned while the battles were still raging, the leadership of the Rabbinical Council of America has been visiting Israel to express the unwavering support and solidarity of the largest group of Orthodox rabbis in the world with the citizens, soldiers and State of Israel, in war and in peace.
The group focused on visiting the communities of the North, including Haifa, Afula, Carmiel, Kiryat Shmoneh, and Tzfat. It also spent time in Sderot and Shomriya, communities that have been directly affected by the current situation in the south. Wherever possible the rabbis made a point of stopping in local hospitals, especially in intensive care units with wounded IDF soldiers, praying for their speedy recovery in body and soul. In a number of the communities visited, the group provided emergency financial support for local recovery, while gathering information that will facilitate additional allocations to be made in due course by their synagogue and community members.
During the course of their visit, the rabbis issued the following statement:
“In light of all that we have seen and heard while here, and considering the reports that have emerged over the course of the past month, the moral impact of the changed nature of this war weighs heavily on our minds, as it does for many Israelis. Like Jews everywhere, we have always admired the unparalleled moral standards of Israel’s armed forces in their military engagements, including a sensitivity to the suffering of civilians and other innocents who find themselves caught up in the entanglements of war. Today, however, there is at the very least, a need to discuss the response to an enemy such as Hizbollah, Such an enemy, in contravention of all military rules of war and universally agreed upon rules of engagement, puts Israeli men and women at extraordinary risk of life and limb through unconscionably using their own civilians, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, and the like, as human shields, cannon fodder, and weapons of asymetric warfare. We are appalled that any human being, let alone religious leaders claiming to act in the name of an honorable monotheistic faith such as Islam, would thus abuse and destroy the image of God that is within every human being. But speaking from within our own Judaic faith and legal legacy, we believe that Judaism would neither require nor permit a Jewish soldier to sacrifice himelf in order to save deliberately endangered enemy civilians. This is especially true when confronting a barbaric enemy who would by such illicit, consistent, and systematic means seek to destroy not only the Jewish soldier, but defeat and destroy the Jewish homeland.
New realities do indeed require new responses. Especially when it comes to such matters involving life and death, self-sacrifice and the fundamental right to life and limb.”