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Judaism and violence

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Judaism and violence

Judaism's doctrines and texts have sometimes been associated with violence. Laws requiring the eradication of evil, sometimes using violent means, exist in the Jewish tradition. Judaism also contains peaceful doctrines.[1][2] This article deals with the juxtaposition of Judaic law and theology to violence and non-violence by groups and individuals. Attitudes and laws towards both peace and violence exist within the Jewish tradition.[1] Throughout history, Judaism's religious texts or precepts have been used to promote[3][4][5] as well as oppose violence.[6]

General claims

Some critics of religion such as Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer argue that all monotheistic religions are inherently violent. For example, Nelson-Pallmeyer writes that "Judaism, Christianity and Islam will continue to contribute to the destruction of the world until and unless each challenges violence in "sacred texts" and until each affirms nonviolent power of God".[7]

Bruce Feiler writes that "Jews and Christians who smugly console themselves that Islam is the only violent religion are willfully ignoring their past. Nowhere is the struggle between faith and violence described more vividly, and with more stomach-turning details of ruthlessness, than in the Hebrew Bible".[8] Similarly, Burggraeve and Vervenne describe the Old Testament as full of violence and evidence of both a violent society and a violent god. They write that, "[i]n numerous Old Testament texts the power and glory of Israel's God is described in the language of violence." They assert that more than one thousand passages refer to YHWH as acting violently or supporting the violence of humans and that more than one hundred passages involve divine commands to kill humans.[9]

Supersessionist Christian churches and theologians argue that Judaism is a violent religion and the god of Israel as a violent god, while Christianity is a religion of peace and that the god of Christianity is one that expresses only love.[10] While this view has been common throughout the history of Christianity and remains a common assumption among Christians, since the Holocaust it has been rejected by mainstream Christian theologians and denominations.[11]:1-5

Normative Judaism

Normative Judaism is not pacifist and violence is condoned in the service of self-defense.[12] J. Patout Burns asserts that Jewish tradition clearly posits the principle of minimization of violence. This principle can be stated as "(wherever) Jewish law allows violence to keep an evil from occurring, it mandates that the minimal amount of violence be used to accomplish one's goal."[13][14]


Judaism's religious texts endorse compassion and peace, and the Hebrew Bible contains the well-known commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself".[2] According to the 1947 Columbus Platform of Reform Judaism, "Judaism, from the days of the prophets, has proclaimed to mankind the ideal of universal peace, striving for spiritual and physical disarmament of all nations. Judaism rejects violence and relies upon moral education, love and sympathy."[6]

The philosophy of nonviolence has roots in Judaism, going back to the Jerusalem Talmud of the middle 3rd century. While absolute nonviolence is not a requirement of Judaism, the religion so sharply restricts the use of violence, that nonviolence often becomes the only way to fulfilling a life of truth, justice and peace, which Judaism considers to be the three tools for the preservation of the world.[15]:242


Jean Fouquet: The Taking of Jericho, c. 1452–1460

While some biblical texts call for and justify offensive war and have had deep impact in Western culture,[16] these texts have been repudiated by mainstream Jewish tradition.[17] However, some strains of radical Zionism promote aggressive war and justify them with biblical texts.[18][19]

Contemporary warfare conducted by the State of Israel is governed by Israeli law and regulation, which includes a Purity of arms code that is based in part on Jewish tradition; the 1992 IDF Code of Conduct combines international law, Israeli law, Jewish heritage and the IDF's own traditional ethical code.[20] Tension between actions of the Israeli government, and Jewish traditions and halakha on the conduct of war, have caused controversy within Israel and have provided a basis for criticisms of Israel.[21]

Retribution and punishment

Eye for an eye

While the principle of lex talionis ("an eye for an eye") is clearly stated in the Bible, in Judaism it is not literally applied, and was interpreted to provide a basis for financial compensation for injuries.[22][23] Pasachoff and Littman point to the reinterpretation of the lex talionis as an example of the ability of Pharisaic Judaism to "adapt to changing social and intellectual ideas."[24] Stephen Wylen asserts that the lex talionis is "proof of the unique value of each individual" and that it teaches "equality of all human beings for law."[25]

Capital and corporal punishment

While the Bible and the Talmud specify many violent punishments, including death by stoning, decapitation, burning, and strangulation for some crimes,[26] these punishments were substantially modified during the rabbinic era, primarily by adding additional requirements for conviction.[27] As a consequence, the death penalty was very rarely applied, and it became more of a principle than a practice. The Talmud states that a court that executes one person in seven years is considered bloodthirsty (Makkot 1:10). The 12th-century Jewish legal scholar Maimonides stated that "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."[27] Whether Jewish communities ever enforced capital punishment or whether the Rabbis ever supported its use is still heavily debated.[28]

Purim and the Book of Esther

The Book of Esther, one of the books of the Jewish Bible, is a story of palace intrigue centered on a plot to kill all Jews which was thwarted by Esther, a Jewish queen of Persia. Instead of being victims, the Jews killed "all the people who wanted to kill them."[29] The king gave the Jews the ability to defend themselves against their enemies who tried to kill them.[30] numbering 75,000 (Esther 9:16) including Haman, an Amalekite that led the plot to kill the Jews. The annual Purim festival celebrates this event, and includes the recitation of the biblical instruction to "blot out the remembrance [or name] of Amalek". Scholars - including Ian Lustick, Marc Gopin, and Steven Bayme - state that the violence described in the Book of Esther has inspired and incited violent acts and violent attitudes in the post-biblical era, continuing into modern times, often centered on the festival of Purim.[31][4]:2–19, 107–146, 187–212, 213–247[32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40]

Other scholars, including Jerome Auerbach, state that evidence for Jewish violence on Purim through the centuries is "exceedingly meager", including occasional episodes of stone throwing, the spilling of rancid oil on a Jewish convert, and a total of three recorded Purim deaths inflicted by Jews in a span of more than 1,000 years.[41] In a review of historian Elliot Horowitz's book Reckless rites: Purim and the legacy of Jewish violence , Hillel Halkin pointed out that the incidences of Jewish violence against non-Jews through the centuries are extraordinarily few in number and that the connection between them and Purim is tenuous.[42]

Rabbi Arthur Waskow and historian Elliot Horowitz state that Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, may have been motivated by the Book of Esther, because the massacre was carried out on the day of Purim[4]:4, 11, 315[43] [44] [45] [46] but other scholars point out that the association with Purim is circumstantial because Goldstein never explicitly made such a connection.[47]

The festival has been used by non-Jews as an opportunity to direct violence against Jews. Nazi attacks against Jews often coincided with Jewish festivals and on Purim 1942, ten Jews were hanged in Zduńska Wola to avenge the hanging of Haman's ten sons.[48] In a similar incident in 1943, the Nazis shot 10 Jews from the Piotrków ghetto.[4] On Purim eve that same year, over 100 Jewish doctors and their families were shot by the Nazis in Czestochowa. The following day, Jewish doctors were taken from Radom and shot nearby in Szydlowiec.[4]

Modern violence

Radical Zionists and settlers

The motives for violence by extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank directed at Palestinians are complex and varied. While religious motivations have been documented,[49][50][51][52] the use of non-defensive violence is outside of mainstream Judaism and mainstream Zionism.[53][54][55][56]

Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935), the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Mandate Palestine, urged that Jewish settlement of the land should proceed by peaceful means only.[57] Contemporary settler movements, follow Kook’s son Tzvi Yehuda Kook (1891–1982), who also did not advocate aggressive conquest.[57] Critics claim that Gush Emunim and followers of Tzvi Yehuda Kook advocate violence based on Judaism's religious precepts.[58] Ian Lustick, Benny Morris, and Nur Masalha assert that radical Zionist leaders relied on religious doctrines for justification for the violent treatment of Arabs in Palestine, citing examples where pre-state Jewish militia used verses from the Bible to justify their violent acts, which included expulsions and massacres such as the one at Deir Yassin.[59]

After Baruch Goldstein carried out the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, his actions were widely interpreted to based on the radical Zionist ideology of the Kach movement, and was condemned as such by mainstream religious and secular Jews and praised as such by radical Zionists.[4]:6-11[60][61][62][63] Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba in the southern West Bank and head of the "Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria" has made speeches legitimizing the killing of non-Jews and praising Goldstein as a saint and martyr. Lior also said "a thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail".[64][65] Lior publicly gave permission to spill blood of Arab persons and has publicly supported extreme right-wing Jewish terrorists.[66]

In July 2010, Yitzhak Shapira who heads Dorshei Yihudcha yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, was arrested by Israeli police for writing a book that encourages the killing of non-Jews. In his book "The King's Torah" (Torat Hamelech) he wrote that under Torah and Jewish Law it is legal to kill Gentiles and even in some cases to kill the babies of enemy forces.[67][68] Later in August 2010 police arrested rabbi Yosef Elitzur-Hershkowitz - co-author of Shapira's book - on the grounds of incitement to racial violence, possession of a racist text, and possession of material that incites to violence. While the book has been endorsed by radical Zionist leaders like Dov Lior[49] and Yaakov Yosef[69] it has been widely condemned by mainstream secular and religious Jews.[49]

Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin

The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir was motivated by Amir’s personal political views and his understanding of Judaism's religious law of moiser (the duty to eliminate a Jew who intends to turn another Jew in to non-Jewish authorities, thus putting a Jew's life in danger[70]) and rodef (a bystander can kill a one who is pursuing another to murder him or her if he cannot otherwise be stopped).[5]:91 Amir’s interpretation has been described as "a gross distortion of Jewish law and tradition"[71] and the mainstream Jewish view is that Rabin's assassin had no Halachic basis to shoot Prime Minister Rabin.[14]

Extremist organizations

In the course of history there have been some organizations and individuals that endorsed or advocated violence based on their interpretation to Jewish religious principles. Such instances of violence are considered by mainstream Judaism to be extremist aberrations, and not representative of the tenets of Judaism.[72][73]

Views on Violence against Islam

While Judaism contains commandments to exterminate idol worship, according to all rabbinic authorities, Islam contains no trace of idolatry.[86] Rabbi Hayim David HaLevi stated that in modern times no one matches the biblical definition of an idolater, and therefore ruled that Jews in Israel have a moral responsibility to treat all citizens with the highest standards of humanity.[86]

Following an arson incident in 2010, in which a mosque in Yasuf village was desecrated, apparently by settlers from the nearby Gush Etzion settlement bloc,[86][87][88] the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger condemned the attack and equated the arson to Kristallnacht, he said: "This is how the Holocaust began, the tragedy of the Jewish people of Europe."[89] Rabbi Menachem Froman, a well-known peace activist, visited the mosque and replaced the burnt Koran with new copies.[90] The rabbi stated: "This visit is to say that although there are people who oppose peace, he who opposes peace is opposed to God" and "Jewish law also prohibits damaging a holy place." He also remarked that arson in a mosque is an attempt to sow hatred between Jews and Arabs.[89][91]

See also


  • Berger, Michael S., "Taming the Beast: Rabbinic Pacification of Second-Century Jewish Nationalism", in Belief and bloodshed: religion and violence across time and tradition, James K. Wellman (Ed.), Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, pp 47–62
  • Boustan, Ra'anan S., "Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity", in Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity, Ra'anan S. Boustan, Alex P. Jassen, Calvin J. Roetzel (Eds), BRILL, 2010 pp 1–12
  • Chilton, Bruce, Abraham's Curse: The Roots of Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Doubleday, 2009
  • Chomsky, Noam, World orders, old and new, Columbia University Press, 1996
  • Ehrlich, Carl. S, "Joshua, Judaism, and Genocide", in Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Judit Targarona Borrás, Ángel Sáenz-Badillos (Eds). 1999, Brill. pp 117–124.
  • Ellens, J. Harold (Ed.), The destructive power of religion: violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007
  • Esber, Rosemarie M., Under the Cover of War: The Zionist Expulsion of the Palestinians, Arabicus Books & Media, LLC, 2009
  • Feldman, Louis H., "Remember Amalek!": vengeance, zealotry, and group destruction in the Bible according to Philo, Pseudo-Philo, and Josephus, Hebrew Union College Press, 2004
  • Firestone, Reuven, "Judaism on Violence and Reconciliation: An Examination of Key Sources", in Beyond violence: religious sources of social transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, James Heft (Ed.), Fordham Univ Press, 2004, pp 74–87
  • Glick, Leonard B., "Religion and Genocide", in The Widening circle of genocide, Alan L. Berger (Ed). Transaction Publishers, 1994, pp 43–74
  • Gopin, Marc, Between Eden and Armageddon: the future of world religions, violence, and peacemaking, Oxford University Press US, 2000.
  • Harkabi, Yehoshafat, Arab attitudes to Israel, John Wiley and Sons, 1974
  • Heft, James (Ed.), Beyond violence: religious sources of social transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Fordham Univ Press, 2004
  • Hirst, David, The gun and the olive branch: the roots of violence in the Middle East, Nation Books, 2003
  • Hoffman, R. Joseph, The just war and jihad: violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Prometheus Books, 2006
  • Horowitz, Elliott S., Reckless rites: Purim and the legacy of Jewish violence, Princeton University Press, 2006
  • Jacobs, Steven Leonard, "The Last Uncomfortable Religious Question? Monotheistic Exclusivism and Textual Superiority in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as Sources of Hate and Genocide", in Confronting genocide: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Steven L. Jacobs (Ed.), Lexington Books, 2009, pp 35–46
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark, Terror in the mind of God: the global rise of religious violence, University of California Press, 2003
  • Kuper, Leo, "Theological Warrants for Genocide: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity", in Confronting genocide: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Steven L. Jacobs (Ed.), Lexington Books, 2009, pp 3–34
  • Lustick, Ian, For the land and the Lord: Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, Council on Foreign Relations, 1988
  • Masalha, Nur, The Bible and Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology and Post-colonialism in Palestine-Israel, Zed Books, 2007
  • Morris, Benny, The birth of the Palestinian refugee problem revisited, Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Niditch, Susan, War in the Hebrew Bible: a study in the ethics of violence, Oxford University Press US, 1995
  • Pappe, Ilan, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld, 2007
  • Pedahzur, Ami, Jewish terrorism in Israel, Columbia University Press, Columbia University Press, 2009
  • Perliger, Arie and Weinberg, Leonard, "Jewish Self-Defence and Terrorist Groups Prior to the Establishment of the State of Israel: Roots and Traditions", in Religious fundamentalism and political extremism, Perliger, Arie (Ed.), Taylor & Francis, 2004, pp 91–118
  • Phillips, Gary A., "More Than the Jews … His Blood Be Upon All the Children: Biblical Violence, Genocide and Responsible Reading", in Confronting genocide: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Steven L. Jacobs (Ed.), Lexington Books, 2009, pp 77–87
  • Pitkanen, Pekka, "Memory, Witnesses, and Genocide in the Book of Joshua", in Reading the law: studies in honour of Gordon J. Wenham, J. Gordon McConville, Karl Möller (Eds), Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007, pp 267–282
  • Prior, Michael P., The Bible and colonialism: a moral critique, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.
  • Quigley, John B., Palestine and Israel: a challenge to justice, Duke University Press, 1990
  • Saleh Abd al-Jawad (2007) "Zionist Massacres: the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem in the 1948 War" in Israel and the Palestinian refugees, Eyal Benvenistî, Chaim Gans, Sari Hanafi (Eds.), Springer, 2007
  • Selengut, Charles, Sacred fury: understanding religious violence, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008
  • Shahak, Israel, Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, 1999
  • Sprinzak, Ehud, Brother against brother: violence and extremism in Israeli politics from Altalena to the Rabin assassination, Simon and Schuster, 1999
  • Van Wees, Hans, "Genocide in the Ancient World", in The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies, Donald Bloxham, A. Dirk Moses (Eds), Oxford University Press US, 2010, pp 239–258.
  • Weisburd, David, Jewish Settler Violence, Penn State Press, 1985
  • Whitelam, Keith W., The invention of ancient Israel: the silencing of Palestinian history, Routledge, 1996


  1. ^ a b Fighting the War and the Peace: Battlefield Ethics, Peace Talks, Treaties, and Pacifism in the Jewish Tradition. Michael J. Broyde, 1998, p. 1
  2. ^ a b *Reuven Firestone (2004), "Judaism on Violence and Reconciliation: An examination of key sources" in Beyond violence: religious sources of social transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Fordham Univ Press, 2004, pp 77, 81.
  3. ^ Carl. S. Ehrlich (1999) "Joshua, Judaism, and Genocide", in Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Judit Targarona Borrás, Ángel Sáenz-Badillos (Eds). 1999, Brill.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Horowitz, Elliott S. (2006). Reckless rites: Purim and the legacy of Jewish violence. Princeton University Press.  
  5. ^ a b Stern, Jessica (2004). Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, Jessica Stern. HarperCollins.  
  6. ^ a b The Columbus Platform: The Guiding Principles of Reform Judaism, 1937
  7. ^ Nelson-Pallmeyer, Jack (2005). Is religion killing us?: violence in the Bible and the Quran. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 136. 
  8. ^ Feiler, Bruce S. (2005). Where God was born: a journey by land to the roots of religion. HarperCollins. p. 4. 
  9. ^ Burggraeve, Roger; Vervenne, Marc (1991). Swords into plowshares: theological reflections on peace. Peeters Publishers. pp. 82,109. 
  10. ^ Heft, James, ed. (2004). Beyond violence: religious sources of social transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Fordham Univ Press. 
  11. ^ R. Kendall Soulen. The God of Israel and Christian Theology Fortress Press (June 11, 1996) ISBN 978-0800628833
  12. ^ "The Co-existence of Violence and Non-Violence in Judaism". Retrieved 2010-12-09. 
  13. ^ Burns, J. Patout (1996). War and its discontents: pacifism and quietism in the Abrahamic traditions. Georgetown University Press. p. 18. 
  14. ^ a b Halacha File: The Halacha of Rodef and the Rabin Shooting. (2004-11-20). Retrieved on 2010-10-27.
  15. ^ Sandra L. Bloom, Michael Reichert, Bearing witness: violence and collective responsibility. Routledge, 1998. ISBN 978-0789004789
  16. ^ Lemche, Niels Peter, The Old Testament between theology and history: a critical survey, Westminster John Knox Press, 2008,pp 315–316:"The [Biblical] story of the 'morally supreme people' that defeats and exterminates another, inferior, nation was part of the ideological baggage of European imperialists and colonizers throughout the nineteenth century. It was also carried by European Jews who,... migrated to Palestine to inherit their ancestral country … In this modern version of the biblical narrative, the Palestinian population turned into 'Canaanites', supposed to be morally inferior to the Jews, and of course the Arabs were never considered their equals … The Bible was the instrument used to suppress the enemy".
  17. ^ Greenberg, Moshe, "On the Political User of the Bible in Modern Israel: An Engaged Critique", in Pomegranates and golden bells: studies in biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern ritual, law, and literature, EISENBRAUNS, 1995, p 467-469: "No 'national' commandment such as that of 'conquest and settling the land' occurs in any of these [Judaic] summaries [of the Torah]… [arguments for applying herem to modern Israel] introduces a distinction that Scripture does not recognize; nowhere are the obligations referred to in the summaries contingent on the achievement of the land-taking or the destruction of Israel's enemies. To suppose that they may be set aside or suspended for the accomplishment of national ends is a leap far beyond scripture…. The [biblical] injunctions to take the land are embedded in narrative and give the appearance of being addressed to a specific generation, like the commandment to annihilate or expel the natives of Canaan, which refers specifically to the seven Canaanite nations… Now, had there ben any inclination to generalize the law [of extermination], it would have been easy for the talmudic sages to [do so]. But in fact the sages left the ancient herem law as they found it: applying to seven extinct nations."
  18. ^ Kravitz, Leonard, "What is Crime?", in Crime and punishment in Jewish law: essays and responsa, Editors Walter Jacob, Moshe Zemer Berghahn Books, 1999, p 31: Quote: "Sin has changed [since biblical times]; crime has changed. We bring a different sensibility to our reading of the sacred texts of the past, even the Torah. There are passages in it which to our modern minds command crimes, the kind of crimes which our age would call 'crimes against humanity' … I think of the problematic section in the Mattot [Numbers 31] which contains the commandment to exact revenge against the Midianites by slaying every male and every female old enough to engage in sexual intercourse…. I used to think that were they [Midianites] suddenly to appear, no Jew would be willing to carry out such a commandment. Then Baruch Goldstein appeared on the scene, and he was followed by Yigal Amir and now I am not sure…. I find the commandment to commit genocide against the Midianite unacceptable. To accept the commandment to do the same to 'the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Peruzzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites' seems to me to make permissible the Holocaust, the attempted genocide of the Jewish people."
  19. ^ Lustick, Ian, For the land and the Lord: Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, Council on Foreign Relations, 1988.
  20. ^ "Ethics – The IDF Spirit".  
  21. ^ Chomsky, Noam (1999). Fateful triangle: the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (2nd Ed, revised). South End Press. pp. 153–154.  
  22. ^ Lewis, Harry Samuel (1915). Liberal Judaism and social service. Bloch Pub. Co. p. 37. 
  23. ^ Kalimi, Isaac; Haas, Peter J. (2006). Biblical interpretation in Judaism and Christianity. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 2. 
  24. ^ Pasachoff, Naomi E.; Littman, Robert J. (2005). A concise history of the Jewish people. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 64. 
  25. ^ Wylen, Stephen M. (2005). The seventy faces of Torah: the Jewish way of reading the Sacred Scriptures. Paulist Press. p. 20. 
  26. ^
    • Sanhedrin 11:1 specifies strangulation
    • Neusner, Jacob, Comparing religions through law: Judaism and Islam,
    page 107-111
  27. ^ a b  
  28. ^ Jacobs, Jill. There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law & Tradition. Woodstock, Vt: Jewish Lights, 2009.
  29. ^ Free Bible Version...
  30. ^ Megilat Esther - the Jewish Magazine
  31. ^ Lustick, Ian, For the land and the Lord: Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, Council on Foreign Relations, 1988. Quote: "Of decisive importance to Jewish fundamentalists is their belief that contemporary political developments are part of an unfolding cosmic drama that will determine, depending on the willingness of Jews to act decisively on its behalf, whether God's redemption of his people Israel, and of the whole world, will or will not soon reach its completion…. The massacre in the Hebron mosque on the Jewish holiday of Purim is a tragic, but telling, example. Preceded by a rash of killings of Jewish settlers by Muslim fundamentalists … it is not in the least a conincidence that the massacre took place on the Jewish holiday of Purim. For most Jews Purim means listening to .. the Book of Esther .. .It is an occasion for merry-making, games, charity and the exchange of gifts. But as Goldstein sat reading that same book on Purim even in 1994, it is almost certain he identified Yasir Arafat with Haman, the arch-enemy of the Jews of ancient Persia, and the killing of Jewish settlers over the previous months with Haman's murderous designs. Accordingly, he [Goldstein] focused on often-ignored verses at the end of the book [of Esther] which, for Jewish fundamentalists, capture the essence of the story under contemporary circumstances and contain a divine imperative to act. According to the Book of Esther the Jews are saved by the king who reverses Haman's evil decree and declares instead that Jews may do unto their enemies what their enemies had intended to do unto them 'to stand up for themselves, to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might assault them, with their little ones and women' (Esther 8:11)….By mowing down Arabs he believed wanted to kill Jews, Goldstein was re-enacting part of the Purim story." (pp ix-xi.)
  32. ^ Quotes from Horowitz 2006
    page 16: "This book deals not only with the theme of Amalek and responses - Christian as well as Jewish - to the book of Esther over the centuries, but also with Jewish violence connected with the holiday of Purim, from the early fifth century to the late twentieth."
    page 19: "The first [part of this book] is devoted .. to the book of Esther … Was it a book that promoted cruel vengeance…? Since according to Jewish law the Amalekites, including women and children, had to be utterly destroyed, thinking about Amalek involved … thinking about the possibilities of, and justifications for, Jewish violence. [The second part of this book includes discussion of] one specific form of Jewish violence over many centuries - the descration of the cross and other Christian images…. [chapter 8 is] devoted to violence against Christians, sometimes within the context of the Purim festiviy, in the 5th-7th centuries. Chapter 9 carries the subject of Purim violence into the medieval and early modern Europe, especially against the background of the often violent rites of Carnival."
  33. ^ Bayme, Steven, "Saddam, Haman, and Amalek", in Jewish arguments and counterarguments: essays and addresses, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 2002: Quote: "For many centuries Purim has been a source of both joy and embarassment for Jews. … Still others have challenged the doctrine of violence associated with the holiday… Martin Luther, for one, accused the Jews of bloodthirsty and vengeful spirit in the Book of Esther… [Luther] reflect[s] the close association of Purim with the biblical doctrine of war against the Amalek. The theme of Jewish violence against Haman and his supporters, the doctrine of Amalek, has caused Jews the greatest discomfort with the Book of Esther and the holiday with which it is associated…. Judaism teaches that violence is justified under certain circumstances - particularly defense against aggression … Amalek, the rabbis argue, is the eternally irreconcilable enemy who represents a value system that promotes murder … Herein lies the enduring relevance of Purim. Aggression must be stopped and evil eliminated…. The meaning of Purim is relevant to the question of the war in the Persian Gulf today [2002]…. [Saddam Hussein's] unprovoked Scud missile attacks against entirely civilian targets in Israel are reminiscent of Amaleks's treacherous attacks upon the … Israelites...." (pp 75–80)
  34. ^ The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Augmented Third Edition Michael David Coogan (Ed). Quote:"Jews and Christians have also been troubled by the story's [Book of Esther] enthusiastic account of the violence of the Jewish community's response to their enemies, which involved not only self defense but also the slaughter of women and children, including the sons of Haman. The bloodthirsty language, however, derives from the story's symmetric pattern of reversals.." (p 708)
  35. ^ Gopin, Marc, Between Eden and Armageddon: the future of world religions, violence, and peacemaking, Oxford University Press US, 2000. Quote :"I have known many Orthodox rabbis, for example, who would be happy to ensure that a holiday such as Purim, with its obligatory reading of the Book of Esther, which cluminates with the slaughter of the people - including their children - who tried to exterminate the Jewish people, would never be used to justify the killing of anyone today. They certainly are deeply ashamed by Baruch Goldstein's mass murder at the Hebron mosque, which was inspired in part by Purim…. They can and do give moralistic sermons, and they can and do interpret the story in less violent terms…. The hermeneutic give and take of Purim is but one example of the way in which a deeply embedded tradition will not disappear even when many people reject its implicit message of violence…. It is not likely [that Purim would diminish in importance] in the current climate of religious revivalism, but it is possible that the violence of the story could be overshadowed with time by the numerous benevolent characteristics of the holiday, such as aiding the poor…. Jewish empowerment allows for a new hermeneutic that could centralize the violence of the story. If the political situation were to rapidly deteriorate, it is conceivable that Purim could become for radical Jews what Ramadan has become for radical Muslims in Algeria, a killing season…. Even the most radically pacifist Jews that I know do not eliminate this holiday, although they do not really know what to do with sacralized violence yet, and are now only evolving a spiritual and ritual reworking of traumatic and violent episodes." (pp 52–53)
  36. ^ Nirenberg, David, Communities of violence: persecution of minorities in the Middle Ages, Princeton University Press, 1998. Quote:"There is evidence … that Jews could use ritual violence to criticize the Christians in whose lands they dwelled An obvious example is Purim, on which see E. Horowitz, The Rite to Be Reckless ..; and for a late medieval Iberian example, S. Levy, "Notas sobre el 'Purrim de Zaragoza", Anuario do Filologia 5 (1979): 203-217." (page 220)
  37. ^ Gonen, Jay Y., Yahweh versus Yahweh: the enigma of Jewish history, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2005. Quote :"In 1994, on Purim day, Jewish physician Baruch Goldstein burst into an Arab Mosque in Hebron … and sprayed Arab worshipers who were kneeling in prayer with bullets from an automatic weapon. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed before the enraged crowd tore him to pieces. It was a shameful day in Jewish history, the memory of which should be injected into all future Purim celebrations as a sober reminder of the potential barbarism that is hidden within the old myths of vengeance wrought by the Sons of Israel upon their enemies…. [Baruch's] memorial plaque affirmed that 'he was murdered for the sanctification of the Name…'. In this manipulative phrasing the old Jewish ethos of martyrdom, the sanctification of the Name, was given new meaning - messianic, activist, and murderous…. Purim celebrations in Israel in 2001 were again blotted by ugly incidents. As Jewish hotheadedness increased … harassments of Palestinians took place. During Purim it was a mitzvah, or good deed, to sock it to the modern Amalekites… In Jerusalem dozens of Jews gathered in the Sabath Square, pelted cars with stones, tried to set a minibus on fire, and threw various objects at residents of the Arab quarter. In Zion Gate Jews beat up Palestinians, calling them 'dirty Arabs' and 'terrorists'. One drunken Jew who wounded an Arab in the eye subsequently attacked the police as he was arrested. There was no loss of life in these incidents, but this cannot be said about the Baruch Goldstein precedence of violence that was deliberately injected into the Purim ritual. And if it has become a Purim commandment to drink and then attack Arabs, how should the Arabs react?" (pp 63–64)
  38. ^ Robins, Robert S. and Post, Jerrold M., Political paranoia: the psychopolitics of hatred, Yale University Press, 1997. Quote: "On February 25, 1994, when Dr. Baruch Goldstein walked into the mosque atop the Tomb of the patriarchs in Hebron and fired his automatic weapon into the worshipping Muslims, killing or wounding at least 130 of them … Also on the night before … Goldstein had read … from the Book of Esther which tells the story of the Jewish festival of Purim…. Purim [Baruch's] friend explained 'is a holiday to kill the people who are trying to kill the Jews'" … For most Jews Purim is a joyous celebration of deliverance. But for some it is a celebration of violence, commemorating an uprising of the Jews against their enemies, a day of righteous wrath when 'the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword and with slaughter and destruction, and did what they would unto them that hated them' (Esther 9:1)." (pp 162–163)
  39. ^ Hunter, Alastair G. "Denominating Amalek: Racist stereotyping in the Bible and the Justification of Discrimination" in Sanctified aggression: legacies of biblical and post biblical vocabularies, Jonneke Bekkenkamp, Yvonne Sherwood (Eds), Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. Quote: Hunter quotes Arthur Waskow on p 103: "on hearing of the murderous attack by Baruch Goldstein": "I know at once that this is no isolated crazy, this 'Baruch Goldstein' who has murdered forty of my cousins. I know at once, he has decided on this Purim to 'blot out the memory of the Amalek' not with a noise maker but with a machine gun… So then, in our generation, for some Jews the Palestinians become Amalek."
  40. ^ Boustan, Ra'anan S., Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity, BRILL, 2010. Quote: "..Christians had grown apprehensive at what they perceived, not without reason, as the ill-will that Jews harbored against the Christian Church… Such concerns are already reflected in the legislation passed in 408 CE against the alleged Jewish practice of burning Haman in effigy on 'a form made to resemble the sainted cross' during the festival of Purim, which the authorities suspected was a gesture of ridicule aimed at the Savior himself…. And, indeed, a verse parody in Jewish Aramaic .. .which features Jesus Christ amid a host of Israel's enemies … justifying the punishment of Haman and bewailing their own cruel fates, may suggest that the dim view of Purim taken by Christian authorities was far from baseless." (p.218)
  41. ^ Hebron Jews: memory and conflict in the land of Israel, by Jerold S. Auerbach, p 137
    "Aside form an alleged 'great slaughter' of local Christians by Galilee Jews after the Persian invasion of Jerusalem in 614 CE, which other scholars believed to be dubious, evidence for repetitive Jewish violence on Purim through the centuries was exceedingly meager: occasional episodes of stone throwing, the spilling of 'rancid oil' on a Jewish convert, mockery of the Christian cross, and a total of three recorded Purim deaths inflicted by Jews in a span of more than 1,000 years…. Then, during the annual Purim parade in Hebron five years later [in 1986] a Jewish settler placed a keffiyah on an effigy of Haman, infuriating local Arabs."
  42. ^ Abby Wisse Schachter, The Problem with Purim, February 2010, Commentary Magazine
  43. ^ Quote from Horowitz 2006 Page 4: "On [Purim in 1994] Dr. Baruch Goldstein .. opened fire, with his army-issued semi-automatic rifle, on dozens of Muslims who were praying inside the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, killing twenty nine. At the time [I was writing] a Hebrew version of an article about the history of Purim violence … as I saw the raucous celebrations in the center of Jerusalem continuing unabated, that there was a clear connection between past Purims and the present one was both exhilarating and disturbing… And the Sabbath before Purim … opens with the command to 'remember what th Amalek did' and concludes with .. the … exhortation to 'blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven'.
  44. ^ Hunter, Alastair G. "Denominating Amalek: Racist stereotyping in the Bible and the Justification of Discrimination" in Sanctified aggression: legacies of biblical and post biblical vocabularies, Jonneke Bekkenkamp, Yvonne Sherwood (Eds), Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. Hunter quotes Arthur Waskow on page 103: "on hearing of the murderous attack by Baruch Goldstein": "I know at once that this is no isolated crazy, this 'Baruch Goldstein' who has murdered forty of my cousins. I know at once, he has decided on this Purim to 'blot out the memory of the Amalek' not with a noise maker but with a machine gun… So then, in our generation, for some Jews the Palestinians become Amalek."
  45. ^ Gopin, Marc, Between Eden and Armageddon: the future of world religions, violence, and peacemaking, Oxford University Press US, 2000, pp 52-53.
  46. ^ New, David S. Holy war: the rise of militant Christian, Jewish, and Islamic fundamentalism, McFarland, 2002, pp 147-148
  47. ^ Auerbach, Jerold S, Hebron Jews: memory and conflict in the land of Israel, Rowman & Littlefield, 2009, p 137
  48. ^ Paul Mendes-Flohr. 20th Century Jewish Religious Thought: Original Essays on Critical Concepts, Movements, and Beliefs, Jewish Publication Society, 2009. pg. 948. ISBN 0-8276-0892-6.
  49. ^ a b c Daniel Estrin for the Forward and HaAretz Jan. 22, 2010 The King's Torah: a rabbinic text or a call to terror?
  50. ^ Weisburd, Jewish Settler Violence, Penn State Press, 1985, pp 20-52
  51. ^ Lustick, Ian, "Israel's Dangerous Fundamentalists", Foreign Policy, 68 (Fall 1987), pp 118-139
  52. ^ Tessler, Mark, "Religion and Politics in the Jewish State of Israel", in Religious resurgence and politics in the contemporary world, (Emile Sahliyeh, Ed). SUNY Press, 1990 pp 263-296.
  53. ^ Haberman, Clyde (1994-03-01). "West Bank Massacre: The Overview; Rabin Urges the Palestinians To Put Aside Anger and Talk". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  54. ^ Rabbi slams Jewish 'hooligans' - Israel News, Ynetnews. (1995-06-20). Retrieved on 2010-10-27.
  55. ^ The ethics of war in Asian civilizations: a comparative perspective By Torkel Brekke, Routledge, 2006, p.44
  56. ^ Morris 2008, pp. 126–128.
  57. ^ a b Judaism and the ethics of war, Norman Solomon. International Review of the Red Cross. Volume 87 Number 858 June 2005
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  59. ^
    • Saleh Abdel Jawad (2007) "Zionist Massacres: the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem in the 1948 War" in Israel and the Palestinian refugees, Eyal Benvenistî, Chaim Gans, Sari Hanafi (Eds.), Springer, p. 78:
    ".. the Zionist movement, which claims to be secular, found it necessary to embrace the idea of 'the promised land' of Old Testament prophecy, to justify the confiscation of land and the expulsion of the Palestinians. For example, the speeches and letter of Chaim Weizman, the secular Zionist leader, are filled with references to the biblical origins of the Jewish claim to Palestine, which he often mixes liberally with more pragmatic and nationalistic claims. By the use of this premise, embraced in 1937, Zionists alleged that the Palestinians were usurpers in the Promised Land, and therefore their expulsion and death was justified. The Jewish-American writer Dan Kurzman, in his book Genesis 1948 … describes the view of one of the Deir Yassin's killers: 'The Sternists followed the instructions of the Bible more rigidly than others. They honored the passage (Exodus 22:2): 'If a thief be found …' This meant, of course, that killing a thief was not really murder. And were not the enemies of Zionism thieves, who wanted to steal from the Jews what God had granted them?'
    • Carl. S. Ehrlich (1999) "Joshua, Judaism, and Genocide", in Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Judit Targarona Borrás, Ángel Sáenz-Badillos (Eds). 1999, Brill. p 117-124.
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  61. ^ Tuman, Joseph S. (2003). Communicating Terror: The Rhetorical Dimensions of Terrorism. Sage Publications, Inc. p. 93.  
  62. ^ "When Fury Rules".   (non-free webpage)
  63. ^ Settlers remember gunman Goldstein; Hebron riots continue. Avi Issacharoff and Chaim Levinson, Haaretz, 28 February 2010
  64. ^ Khalid Amayreh (20 May 2004). "Rabbi supports killings in Rafah".  
  65. ^ "The List: The World’s Worst Religious Leaders". April 2008 (original article no longer available online). Copies are cached at and reproduced on Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  66. ^ Haaretz, 2010 Aug. 23, "Those Noisy Barbarians, Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Hebron, Doesn't Want Jews to Take on Boogie-Woogie from the Jungle,"
  67. ^ "Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira is the alleged author of a book which deems as legal, according to 'Jewish law,' the killing of non-Jews" by Chaim Levinson. Haaretz.
  68. ^ "Yitzhar rabbi suspected of incitement" by Ben Hartman.
  69. ^ "Yitzhar rabbi detained by police". Investigators suspect Elitzur-Hershkowitz of racial incitement by Yaakov
  70. ^ Free Judaism and religion in Israel. Free Judaism in association with Milan Press. 1999. p. 47.  
  71. ^ Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, 14 November 2005 Rabbinic response: Jewish Law on the Killing of Yitzhak Rabin. Quote: "First of all, the law of the pursuer only applies to a spontaneous act, whereas Yigal Amir planned this assassination for two years. Secondly, the law of the pursuer is only intended to save a potential victim from imminent death. There is absolutely no proof that withdrawing from certain territories will directly lead to the death of any Jews. On the contrary, Prime Minister Rabin, over half the members of the Knesset, and over half the population of Israel believe exactly the opposite - that it will save Jewish lives. Lastly, this law does not refer to elected representatives, for if Yitzhak Rabin was really a pursuer, then so are all his followers and that would mean that Amir should have killed over half the population of Israel! In other words, even according to the law of the pursuer, this act was totally futile and senseless since the peace process will continue."
  72. ^ Weiss, Steven I. (2010-02-26). "The Ghosts of Purim Past: The holiday's violent beginnings—and what they mean for the Jewish future". 
  73. ^ "Violence and Vengeance: Purim and Good Friday". Dialogika (Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations). 1998-03-28. 
  74. ^ U.S. Dept. of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2004. April 2005
  75. ^ U.S. Appeals Court Affirms Designation of Kahane Chai, Kach as Terrorist Groups Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
  76. ^ Kach, Kahane Chai (Israel, extremists) Council for Foreign Relations, 20 March 2008
  77. ^ Lustick For The Land and The Lord: The Evolution of Gush Emunim, by Ian S. Lustick
  78. ^ Pedahzur, Ami, and Arie Perliger (2009). Jewish Terrorism in Israel. Columbia University Press. pg 33-36
  79. ^ a b Anti-Defamation League on JDL
  80. ^ Bohn, Michael K. (2004). The Achille Lauro Hijacking: Lessons in the Politics and Prejudice of Terrorism. Brassey's Inc. p. 67.  
  81. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation - Congressional Testimony
  82. ^ National Consortium for the Study of Terror and Responses to TerrorismJDL group profile from
  83. ^ Kahane Chai (KACH) Public Safety Canada
  84. ^ Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) U.S. Department of State, 11 October 2005
  85. ^ Council Decision of 21 December 2005 implementing Article 2(3) of Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001 on specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities with a view to combating terrorism and repealing Decision 2005/848/EC Official Journal of the European Union, 23 December 2005
  86. ^ a b c "Does the Torah back burning mosques?" by Rabbi Gideon Sylvester. The Jewish Chronicle Online. 22 october 2010.
  87. ^ "Palestinian mosque torched in suspected 'price tag' operation by settlers." by Avi Issacharoff. Haaretz.
  88. ^ "Arsonists torch mosque in West Bank village" by Diaa Hadid. Associated Press.
  89. ^ a b "Chief rabbi: Palestinian mosque burning harkens to Kristallnacht" by Anshel Pfeffer. Haaretz.
  90. ^ "Settlers replace Korans burnt in West Bank mosque attack". Reuters.
  91. ^ "Board slams West Bank mosque arson". The Jewish Chronicles Online. October 7, 2010.
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