In Case You Missed It: What Makes An Army Jewish? A Dialogue.

IDF and Jewish Ethics 2Stephen Stern, the 16th Street J’s Director of Dialogues and Public Affairs sends an account of this past week’s riveting dialogue.

Thursday night, February 14, a ruach of intense dialogue pervaded the Center’s Ina and Jack Kay Community Hall, as nearly fifty participants remained riveted for a two hour plus exploration, “What Makes a Jewish Army? Ethics and Tradition: The IDF in an Age of Checkpoints, Village Sweeps and Targeted Killings”. Two passionate IDF veterans recounted their experiences and their starkly different conclusions, listened deeply and challenged each other, responded to fifteen varied and vibrant interrogations from the audience, and spoke to modern dilemmas in light of traditional Jewish questioning framed by our sublime colleague, Jewish educator Avi West of the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning.

This is my brief introductory account and an invitation to continue this dialogue. I seek responses to this blog from our panelists, that night’s audience, and those out there who want more of this.

Yehuda Shaul, a young orthodox Israeli, is founder of Breaking the Silence, a group of veterans who give visual, oral, and written witness on the meaning of their service in the West Bank and Gaza during the second intifada. Yehuda illustrated, speaking in front of a panoramic projection of a large Palestinian neighborhood in Hebron, his group’s call for the Israeli civil society “owner of the IDF” to look deeply at and weigh the costs of military control over large civilian populations. Continue reading

The Politics of Israel and the IDF

Both the Post and the Times have articles today on the release of the Winograd Commission’s report on the 2006 war in Ehud OlmertLebanon which is highly criticial of both the civilian and military Israeli leadership. Terming the war, “a big and serious failure” for Israel, the report backs away from some of the harsher criticism it had leveled directly at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in its interim report. In that earlier edition, the Commission had accussed the PM of “severe failure” for the rush to war — although now it states somewhat appeasingly that Olmert’s government acted, “acted out of a strong and sincere perception of what they thought at the time was Israel’s interest.” The conventional wisdom is that he will not have to resign…for now.

This will all surely be on the table for discussion next Wednesday at 7:30 pm when Hebrew University professor Dr. Meron Medzini comes to the 16th Street J to for a program entitled Israel 2008: The Political Landscape. Dr. Medzini teaches Israel Foreign Policy at Hebrew University and is the author of The Proud Jewess: A Political Biography of Golda Meir.  The event is free and presented in partnership with American Friends of the Hebrew University.

The following week, on February 14 you can also join us for Dialogue – What Makes an Army Jewish: Ethics, Tradition and the IDF. This discussion will examine more closely the practical impact political and policy decisions have on the responsibilities of soldiers tasked with carrying out the orders of the government. The dialogue will feature Yehuda Shaul, a young orthodox Israeli whose experience as a soldier in Hebron led to the 2002 founding of Breaking the Silence, a group of IDF veterans who give public witness to the impact of their service in the West Bank and Gaza; and  Adam Harmon, author of The Lonely Soldier and an American-Israeli who has served with elite IDF units for over 13 years and has helped capture leading organizers of terror and prevented suicide attacks. The program is subtitled, The IDF in an Age of Checkpoints, Village Sweeps and Targeted Killings, so expected a frank discussion.

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