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How to Win a War: Cease Fires or Unconditional Surrender?

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As WWII came to an end, why did the Allies insist on the unconditional surrender of the Axis Germans and Japanese? You already vanquished and bombed them to smithereens and destroyed their infrastructures, why not at this point let them “save face” and allow them “conditional surrender” as you negotiate final terms? Once you have won the war and utterly humiliated the enemy, isn’t it “humane” to allow them some pride and morale as they rebuild their cities and their lives? And what about civilians: Would you believe that 33.5 million out of the total 60 million people killed in WWII were civilians? And that is the most conservative estimate. Some estimate 55 million civilians killed out of the 85 million total! The point here is not to dwell on the horrors of war, but simply to place things into context.

What lessons can we derive from this in our present-day battles? Obviously, we all would like to avoid any war and any casualties. But if war is forced upon us, what are our obligations? What defines humane behavior in times of battle? In 1949, following WWII, the Geneva Convention, updating three previous treaties, established the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment during war. However, the big question is whether war itself is… humanitarian? And what about all the repeated violations of these conventions? Do they really have any value when we see beheadings and the use of terror tactics against civilians? How to cease-fires fit into the picture? Finally, what does the Torah have to say about these matters? What exactly defines war and peace? What would the Torah say to Israel today, and for that matter to the USA and to all those fighting anywhere in the world? Do we turn the other cheek, do we attack first or is there another method?

Please join Rabbi Jacobson in this timely Middle East/Seven Weeks workshop as he discusses today’s battles in context of yesterday’s. Discover extraordinary relevant messages gleaned from this week’s Torah portion, which discusses crossing the River Jordan and the conquest of Israel. Learn how the Torah of peace — a mandate given only to bring harmony to the world — teaches us how to behave in times of war and conflict. How to remain strong and transcend fear when faced with adversity, and how to find true, lasting and permanent peace.

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