The Israel-Gaza war: a Jewish halachic perspective

The Cape Jewish Chronicle received the article below from Darren Hollander, Group CEO of Global Energy, based in South Africa and the United States. Darren has a keen interest in global affairs.

It must be noted that Jewish law can be applied to any situation in different ways, which means that there can be quite varied interpretations of the law which may result in the drawing of other conclusions. This is particularly the case if the sources relied on by the writer are not provided – as is the case in this article. As such, Darren’s article should be seen as a halachic approach, but not as the definitive halachic approach.  

In recent years, the Israel-Gaza conflict has been a topic of great concern and debate. This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the conflict from a Jewish Halachic perspective. Halacha, the Jewish legal framework, offers guidance on how individuals and communities should navigate complex ethical and moral issues, including armed conflict. By examining the principles of Halacha, we can gain a deeper understanding of the Israel-Gaza conflict and its implications. 

The Principle of Self-Defence 

One of the fundamental principles of Halacha is the obligation to defend oneself and protect one’s community. In the context of the Israel-Gaza conflict, Israel has the right to defend itself against attacks from Hamas and other armed groups. Halacha recognises the inherent value of human life and permits the use of force when necessary to preserve life and protect innocent civilians. 

According to Halacha, the task of the Israeli military is not only to defend the country in times of war, but to root out the forces of evil in the world and to sanctify the honour of Hashem because, as our Sages teach, the honour of Hashem and Israel are one. 

Proportional Response

Halacha also emphasises the principle of proportionality in self-defence. This means that the response to an attack should be measured and not exceed what is necessary to neutralise the threat. Israeli military actions in Gaza are guided by this principle, with efforts made to minimise civilian casualties and avoid excessive force. However, the nature of urban warfare and the use of human shields by Hamas present significant challenges in achieving this ideal.

Protection of Innocent Life

The protection of innocent life is a central tenet of Halacha. Jewish law prohibits the targeting of civilians and requires combatants to take all reasonable precautions to minimise harm to non-combatants. Israel’s military operations in Gaza are guided by strict rules of engagement, which aim to prevent harm to innocent Palestinians. Nevertheless, the complex reality on the ground often makes it difficult to distinguish between combatants and civilians, leading to unfortunate casualties.

Ethical Dilemmas

The Israel-Gaza conflict raises ethical dilemmas that require careful consideration from a Halachic perspective. For example, the use of airstrikes to target military installations in densely populated areas may inadvertently harm civilians. While Jewish law recognises the necessity of self-defence, it also places a high value on human life. Balancing these competing obligations is a challenge that Israeli military strategists and policymakers must grapple with.

The Role of International Law

Halacha acknowledges the importance of adhering to international law and norms. Israel, as a member of the international community, has
a responsibility to conduct its military operations in accordance with international humanitarian law. This includes minimising civilian casualties, allowing humanitarian access, and respecting the rights of prisoners of war.

The Pursuit of Peace

Halacha promotes the pursuit of peace as a paramount value. Jewish law encourages the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means whenever possible. Israel has made numerous efforts to engage in diplomatic negotiations and seek peaceful resolutions to the Israel-Gaza conflict. However, the continued launching of rockets and terrorist attacks by Hamas has made a lasting peace elusive.

Acts of Mercy and Tzedakah

Jewish law and ethics also emphasise acts of mercy and tzedakah (charitable giving). Many religious Jewish individuals and organisations are actively involved in providing humanitarian aid and support for those affected by the conflict, irrespective of their national or religious identity. The concept of “tikkun olam” – repairing the world – drives these actions, encouraging Jews to mitigate suffering and provide assistance to victims of violence.


The Israel-Gaza conflict is a complex and multifaceted issue that demands careful analysis from a Jewish Halachic perspective. While Halacha recognises the right to self-defence and the necessity of protecting innocent life, it also emphasises the pursuit of peace and adherence to international law. As the conflict continues to evolve, it is crucial for individuals and communities to engage in thoughtful discussions and seek guidance from Halachic authorities to navigate these challenging times. 

• Published in the November 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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