The Peace and Violence of Judaism: From the Bible to Modern Zionism

The Peace and Violence of Judaism: From the Bible to Modern Zionism

The Peace and Violence of Judaism: From the Bible to Modern Zionism

The Peace and Violence of Judaism: From the Bible to Modern Zionism


Religious violence has become one of the most pressing issues of our time. Robert Eisen provides the first comprehensive analysis of Jewish views on peace and violence by examining texts in five major areas of Judaism - the Bible, rabbinic Judaism, medieval Jewish philosophy, Kabbalah, and modern Zionism. He demonstrates that throughout its history, Judaism has consistently exhibited ambiguity regarding peace and violence.

To make his case, Eisen presents two distinct analyses of the texts in each of the areas under consideration: one which argues that the texts in question promote violence toward non-Jews, and another which argues that the texts promote peace. His aim is to show that both readings are valid and authentic interpretations of Judaism. Eisen also explores why Judaism can be read both ways by examining the interpretive techniques that support each reading.

The Peace and Violence of Judaismwill be an essential resource not only for students of Judaism, but for students of other religions. Many religions exhibit ambiguity regarding peace and violence. This study provides a model for analyzing this important phenomenon.


On the morning of September 11, 2001, I emerged from the subway in Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C., as I did most mornings, to begin my workday at George Washington University. As I walked toward my office, I immediately noticed something odd. On a brilliantly sunny day, there was a dark cloud on the southern horizon. At first, I thought it was a rain cloud coming to spoil the beautiful weather, but the blue skies everywhere else belied that possibility. For a moment I thought that perhaps something terrible had happened, but I quickly rejected that speculation because I am sometimes prone to an overly active imagination. Yet, only minutes later I learned that something terrible had indeed happened. The cloud I was looking at was a massive plume of smoke from the fire that engulfed a portion of the Pentagon after it had been hit by one of the planes that terrorists had hijacked earlier that day.

Many lives were changed on 9/11, and mine was too. It was months before I fully absorbed the impact of what had happened, but even before the smoke had cleared from the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, I began to rethink what my role should be as an academic visà-vis the global community. This issue had not much concerned me up to that point in my life. I had been at GW for over a decade and was very much enjoying my career as an academic. I was a tenured professor, and I was in the process of finishing a second book in my area of specialty, medieval Jewish philosophy. I had wonderful students. I had a beautiful family and a house in the suburbs of one of America’s . . .

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