CREDOS: Jewish theology — I

The reserve infantry unit I served in for 18 years is currently performing several weeks of active duty in the West Bank. When the call-up orders went out some months ago, the timing left no question about the nature of the soldiers’ mission. At that time, early July was the time Israel planned to withdraw its army, and its civilian settlements, from the Gaza Strip and a small part of the northern West Bank — a move that has since been postponed until August.

For many years, I was the company clerk. My successor in that job — I’ll call him Avraham — told me that, when the orders went out, he had expected that a number of the Orthodox religious soldiers in the unit would ask to be excused from this round of duty because they believed that Jewish religious law grants Jews an inalienable right to live everywhere in the biblical land of Israel. Removing Jews from their homes in Gaza and the West Bank would thus be a violation of their religious principles.

Avraham and I are both Orthodox Jews. He thinks that soldiers who feel they cannot participate in the evacuation of Israeli settlements should follow the dictates of their conscience. I believe that the military duty to follow orders should in this instance take precedence over their opposition to the withdrawal policy — just as I followed orders for many years to protect Israeli settlements in the West Bank, although I thought that it was wrong for Israel to have built them in the first place. —