Jewish War & Peace 101

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Peace, shalom, is one of Judaism's most revered values. "Shalom" is, of course, the traditional greeting among Jews, and it is also a name used for God. And yet, Jewish tradition takes it for granted that war is an inevitable part of human existence and that peace on earth will not be achieved until the messianic era.

Combat and Conflict

Toward the end of Deuteronomy, as the Israelites are about to leave the desert, Moses speaks to them about war. The guidelines he provides are of practical significance. The Israelites are slated to occupy the land of Canaan (biblical Israel) through military force.

war and peace quiz

The first rule of Jewish war is to avoid it whenever possible. Prior to attacking an enemy, a Jewish army must offer peace. If that offer is not accepted, however, the Torah mandates that every male should be killed and the women, children, and livestock should be taken as booty. And this only applies to wars with non-Canaanite nations. The seven nations of Canaan--men, women, and children--should be completely wiped out if they do not accept the terms of peace offered to them.

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