The influence of religion on the character and conduct of the Israel Defense Forces : a review of selected works
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In light of an ever growing gap between Israel’s religious and secular communities, it is perhaps inevitable that the phenomenon would come to capture the interest of Israel-oriented scholars. Yet efforts to address the extent to which religion affects the nature and operations of the Israeli army and the degree to which that influence is advantageous – or perhaps detrimental – have been far from comprehensive. A manifestation of the religious-secular conflict, the religious-military cleavage within Israeli society has long been at the heart of Israel-focused research. Scholars have remained intrigued by the conflicts that arise when a soldier’s religious background is at odds with the inflexibility of army life. Many researchers have sought to measure the degree to which religion affects army cohesion and success in war, and determine whether or not religious influence on the State’s force is largely harmless or a looming threat. While scholars of both camps have posited credible theories crafted out of sound analyses, a review of selected scholarship on the subject suggests that the influence of religion on the Israeli military is benign. Opponents of religious influence on the military have failed to appreciate the benefits of integrating devout troops into the force and the successes of mediating mechanisms that have become instrumental to the IDF. Such mediators may have been implemented in an effort to accommodate religious soldiers, but the entire force has stood to benefit.