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Jews fighting in foreign armies against other Jews


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 18, 5781
Of course I agree with the Jewish right to self-determination. Historically speaking however, I wanted to know if NILIs actions were acceptable by Halacha. They did not take into consideration the Jews fighting on the ottoman front, who were likely put into danger/harmed because of NILIs actions, and of course the Jewish Yishuv itself was put into danger. My question was really if one can possibly sacrifice a group of Jews to possibly save another, which is what seemed to have been able to happen (there were plenty of Jewish combat troops serving in the ottoman army in WWI). It wasn’t simply a matter of saving ALL Jews; in fact, because of how the Jewish nation was divided up in WWI, it was saving one group and putting another in possibly a deadly situation.
Your question is more applicable to WWI in Europe itself, where Jews often killed Jews from the other side of the war. This illogical situation was in fact, halachically very wrong, and was even a turning point for many to become Zionists, for what moral right do we have to kill or risk being killed or even transgress the Shabbat, just because a gentile arch-duke was assassinated, or a gentile Czar is angry at a gentile Kaiser? If after the emancipation, Jews began serving in armies, why don't we group together and battle the common anti-Semites, which would clearly be a moral and justified war! On the other hand, you asked regarding the Land of Israel, where there were Jews drafted into the Turkish army, but in general, not into battle units, or not given combat jobs in those units. In fact, when WWI broke out, the Ottomans understandably confiscated weapons even from those Jews who did have them, for they were suspected of harboring pro-English sentiments. Accordingly, the NILI spies sided against the Turks, while not really endangering Jewish soldiers, but rather fighting for the benefit of the Jewish nation, which were the general sentiments even of the Jews who happened to be on the Turkish side. Thank God, with the State of Israel, we no longer have to deal with such absurd and immoral issues.
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