The Right to Invoke the Name of G-d in the IDF

The Jewish state has a Jewish character.That's what its Jewish population wants, both in public and in the army.

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

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This past week, Israeli Hebrew media returned to the leftist brouhaha over much-lauded Givati Brigade Commander Ofer Winter invoking the Name of G-d in his words of encouragement to troops entering Gaza. The Israel Democracy Institute went a step further, adding that religious soldiers might decide that G-d's Will runs contra to specific orders, unaware that halakha mandates obeying a commanders' orders when defending the Jewish People. Then, feminist groups falsely claimed that Commander Winter had cancelled a female singer's performance for religious reasons. Winter was praised for his leadership and courageous actions in Operation Protective Edge, but was not included in the recent round of advancement in IDF ranks, leading this weekend's Makor Rishon Hebrew newspaper to wonder if there is a glass ceiling for religiously observant IDF commanders. Ironically, those who attack hareidi students for not doing army service also express dismay at seeing "too many skullcaps" in the IDF. 

Rabbi Melamed's eloquent and forceful message clarifies the place of G-d in a Jewish Army.

The people at the Israel Democracy Institute went into a panic when IDF Brigade Commander Ofer Winter dared to mention the Name of G-d in his Order of the Day to the troops under his command as they were about to go out to battle in Operation Protective Edge. The Institute began waging open warfare against the Jewish character of the state, attempting to deny IDF officers the right to invoke the Name of G-d and putting an end to the mention of the Almighty at official government events.

It is imperative that we go out to a pitched battle against the suggestion[ that G-d's Name is not to be allowed in the IDF]. The state of Israel was established as the land of the Jewish people, their national home. This is not just a country of Jews, it is the Jewish people's country, a people with a long history of faith, with a Bible that preserves  Jewish identity, an identity that is the country's essence.


This is exactly how every commander should act, because in this way he expresses the true spirit of the Jewish people that beats in the heart of every Jew.
In  a recent survey of the religious level of the Jewish population in Israel, conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics, 9% defined themselves as hareidi-religious, 10% as religious, 15% as traditional, 34% as non-observant-believers in the G-d of Israel, and only 9% as secular atheists.  The Jews of the state of Israel believe in the G-d of Israel.

Exactly whom does the Israel Democracy Institute represent?  9% of the population. These are the facts.

In that case, calling on the Name of the G-d of Israel at public government events and its use by IDF officers is the more natural form of expression for the Jewish people in Israel. The motivation to fight and protect the state becomes more powerful when accompanied by a conscious faith, by the realization that the fight is for the existence of the Jewish people.

If the state's Jewish essence as a Jewish state, the nation of G-d and of the Torah, is removed, if it becomes a "nation of all its citizens", it will lose its right to exist and it will also lose its soul.

In the Israel Democracy Institute, the Jewish faith is seen as a private and personal thing. That, however, is not accurate, because the Jewish faith is a reflection of Jewish people-hood as a nation and not just as individuals. The attempt to exclude the Jewish faith from public life and allow it to be seen only in an individual's private home is not democratic, it derives from a secular worldview that makes use of the language of democracy to change the state to a secular entity, a "nation of all its citizens".

Jewish democracy means something else. It declares that the Jewish state was established with a unique Jewish character, but does not coerce individuals to behave in a specific manner, allowing each person to conduct his private life according to his own faith and worldview.

The Order of the Day of IDF Brigade Commander Ofer Winter inspired his soldiers with courage exactly because he invoked the Name of the G-d of Israel. All of them felt strengthened and uplifted by the words of natural Jewish faith in the Order of the Day.

Every IDF officer should take a lesson from Winter on how to lead our army in its battle against enemies that want to destroy the state of Israel. Even the non-Jewish IDF soldiers see themselves as part of a Jewish army that guards the Jewish people. Even the secular soldiers – who say they are non-believers – become believers at the battlefront. They all asked to pray before going out to fight and the faith that is hidden in their inner selves came to the fore at that moment.

We should not be using apologetic language or feel any need  to justify Brigade Commander Winter's behavior. We should be insisting that this is exactly how every commander should act, because in this way he expresses the true spirit of the Jewish people that beats in the heart of every Jew.

There are soldiers whose faith is hidden deep in their hearts, and there are some whose faith is obvious. In time of war, all of them reveal their faith.

We will not allow the Israel Democracy Institute to destroy the character of the Jewish state for which we hoped for 2000 years. On the contrary, we have to emphasize and strengthen the state's character as the state of the Jewish people and establish its public Jewish image as a "light unto the nations", bringing us closer to the fulfillment of the prophetic vision that "many nations will come and say: let us arise  and go to the Mountain of the Lord, to the house of the Lord of Jacob, and He will show us His ways and we will follow in His path."

Translated from the Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky




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