An Israeli compares the IDF’s growing religiosity with Hezbollah

by Yaniv Reich on October 29, 2009

There is a growing religiosity in the IDF that is very troubling. We saw this in military rabbis’ statements around the Gaza onslaught. But it is a more insidious and constant aspect of IDF life.

In this commentary, the father of a new IDF recruit discusses his discomfort over the overly religious character of the initiation ceremony and specifically links the religious ideology to the IDF’s stewardship of the ongoing settlement project.

An excerpt:

What bothered me the most was the blatant religious content. During the brief ceremony, no fewer than three religious figures took the stages, all of them IDF rabbis if I’m not mistaken. They read prayers and biblical verses and spoke about the land being promised to Jewish people.

How would a Circassian, Druze, or Christian recruit (yes, there are quite a few of those) feel at a swear-in ceremony that sounds like the Jewish mirror image of Hezbollah ceremonies? Will they ever be able to feel this is their army too? Will they ever feel that they are part of the public whose duty it is to serve in the army and be loyal to the State?

However, the problem goes even deeper. The message conveyed in the ceremony, both openly and between the lines, is that the military is an arm of the settlement enterprise. The rabbis, the prayers, the songs, and the texts were almost entirely religious, and we can assume that the ceremony served as a brief reflection of the atmosphere that prevails later on during the service; an atmosphere that the parents don’t see.

Can we trust army officials and soldiers who believe the land of Israel was given by God to the Jews (it says so in the bible, of course) to behave appropriately with Palestinians and settlers? Do we want religious principles to be motivating our military policy?

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