Changes in Israeli policy have military rabbis joining combat troops at the tip of the spear. Ostensibly there to boost morale, critics worry that the rabbis are turning soldiers into Jewish jihadis. One rabbi says he was ordered to blow a ram’s horn like Joshua, because “It makes the war holier.”

During the Gaza war, the military’s religious leaders distributed propaganda under the army’s official seal, casting that conflict in biblical terms.

All this has created an environment more attractive to fundamentalists and less appealing to Israel’s moderates and secular citizens. The military is drawing in settlers and zealots and transforming into something that doesn’t quite reflect the rest of the country. — PS


According to Reserve Gen Nehemia Dagan, what is happening in the army is far more dangerous than most Israelis realise: “We (soldiers) used to be able to put aside our own ideas in order to do what we had to do. It didn’t matter if we were religious or from a kibbutz. But that’s not the case anymore.

“The morals of the battlefield cannot come from a religious authority. Once it does, it’s Jihad. I know people will not like that word but that’s what it is, Holy War. And once it’s Holy War there are no limits.”

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