Judaism on Peace and Violence

Peace is a central value within Judaism. The Hebrew scriptures oscillate in their accounts of the legitimate use of force. In some cases, Israelite violence against others is sanctioned by God, most notably in the Book of Joshua. Elsewhere in the scriptures, peace is held out as the most desirable of social norms, the ideal state to which all human social action must be geared. The prophetic books, most known for their apocalyptic predictions, also include powerful evocations of a future era of social peace and harmony (for example, Isaiah 2:4). Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 CE) drew on the Talmud and ancient Greek philosophy to argue that violence is justified for self-protection and for the maintenance of political order, but a ruler should seek a peaceful resolution before engaging in military action. In the contemporary era, Jewish reflection on matters of war and peace is shaped by the historical legacies of Zionism, the Holocaust, and of multiple wars between Israel and its neighbors. Peace remains the core value, even as security and survival are overriding concerns in Israeli politics and foreign policy.
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