“Our Future as a Christian Minority is Intertwined With That of the State of Israel”


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The relation of Arab Christians to Israel is a complex issue. And the most important thing to understand about it is that any regional church has to adopt a standard Anti-Israel line to avoid accusations of treason. That strategy worked somewhat in the old days, but in the Islamist wake of the Arab Spring where countries like Egypt and Syria are falling to Islamist rule, that strategy is running into its limits and Arab Christians in Israel, like Druze, are talking about their own interests.

“We want young Christians to become totally integrated into Israeli society, which also entails shouldering their fair share of the burden of national service. Our future as a Christian minority is intertwined with that of the State of Israel. We want to give more to society and to contribute our share just like others do,” says Gavriel Nadaf, a 39-year-old Arab Christian priest who is being persecuted by the Arab Israeli establishment. Nonetheless, the cold, hard numbers say that the majority is behind him.

There have been recent attempts to silence him. We spoke with him earlier this week before he was forbidden from speaking to the media. There are only a brave few Jews who dare back him, but the priest is defiant. “We want to connect with Jewish society in Israel,” he said. “We feel secure in Israel. We see ourselves as citizens with equal rights as well as equal responsibilities and obligations. Most of the young Christians here view Israel as their country. This is the decisive period. If your youths see that Israel is fostering the Christians’ engagement with Israeli society, then the world will spread forth. But if the state turns its back on us, the inciters will win.”

The collapse of the pan-Arab worldview is also palpable among the Arabs of Israel. An increasing number of youths are opting to eschew the dictates of the Israeli Arab leaders who boycott the state, refuse army service, and rebel against the establishment. Instead, they are volunteering for civil service near their towns. In a few cases, they perform national and even military service. They do so despite the angry reactions of the majority of those in their immediate environment, including family and friends.

The members of the Greek Orthodox church in Israel — the constituency that we tend to refer to as “Arab Christians” — are keenly sensitive to the collapse of pan-Arabism. There are over 130,000 Greek Orthodox Christians living in Israel, most of them in Haifa, Nazareth, and the Galilee. Some are scattered in the Jerusalem metropolitan area.

In recent years, particularly since the 2010 upheavals began in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, there has been an increase in the number of Christian Arabs who seek to enlist in the Israel Defense Force. Much of this is due to the work done by the “Forum for the Enlistment of the Christian Community,” which was founded by a group of Christian conscripts who concluded their military service.

These guys were subjected to harassment and scorn from the larger Arab society due to their decision to serve in the IDF. Now they are advocating for the creation of a more fitting, appropriate enlistment track for more young Christians who wish to be drafted and who see themselves as loyal citizens of the state and an inseparable part of its society with the attendant rights and obligations.

The most prominent member of the forum is the persecuted Nazareth priest. After he was ordained by the Greek Orthodox Church, he then served as a judge in the religious court. He was also a spokesperson for the Greek patriarch in Israel and a priest in churches across Israel, including Haifa, Acre, and Nazareth.

Amongst young Christians who are in favor of conscription, Nadaf’s presence is considered crucial to the cause given his status in the community. For years, he has encouraged young Arab Christians to enlist in the army. The forum on which he serves also includes Christian soldiers and commanders in the reserves as well as Christian businessmen who support full integration with Jewish society. These business leaders contribute funds to pro-enlistment campaigns that have thus far been successful in encouraging a greater number of young Christian men and women to enlist.

Nadaf takes great pride in the fact that Christian women as well as men enlist in the army. In the IDF, there are currently two Christian Arab women who hold an officer’s rank. Among the men, there is a large number of officers.

“We support the integration of community members into Israeli society alongside an equal sharing of obligations and duties,” he said. “Israel is a multi-cultural mosaic. It’s not made up just of Jews and Arabs. We want to engage with Jewish society in Israel. We feel secure in the state of Israel and we see ourselves as citizens of the state with all the attendant rights as well as obligations.”

Arab Christians in Israel may be the new Druze. Druze in Israel and in Syria were able to segment their loyalties by country. Arab Christians in Israel and the Golan Druze have both had to reevaluate the situation in the region after the Arab Spring.

This isn’t unprecedented. The Israeli War of Independence involved a number of Arab clans deciding to align themselves with the reborn Jewish State for entirely practical reasons.

Arab Christians in Israel face a region full of dangers and few remaining countries willing to give them any rights above the Dhimmi level. Pan-Arabism has failed. The Israeli model however provides collective security for minorities against the region’s Sunni Muslim majority.

“While the subject of IDF enlistment began to gain more attention recently, it’s a good thing that it did because now everybody is talking about this,” he said. “Unfortunately, there was always a sense that Christians couldn’t express their opinions in public. It was as if Christians weren’t allowed to talk, but this is changing now.”

  • Texas Patriot

    The only difference between Christians and Jews is that Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised of God. If anything, Jesus proclaimed that the Jewish faith was inadequate to the transformative spiritual purposes of God, and even stated that “If your virtue goes no deeper than the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” Jews had a problem with that then, and may have a problem with that now. As Daniel points out, and is plain for all to see, the situation with Muslims is even worse. In other words, Christians in the middle east today find themselves between a rock and a hard place, and the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. The best strategy for Christians in the middle east? Get out while you can. The best strategy for Israel? Be relentless in your response to Muslim aggression, and always require the aggressors to pay a disproportionate price by the forfeiture of lands and forced expulsion. In this way, either the attacks by Muslim aggressors will cease, or Israel will eventually be able to reconquer the entirety of the Promised Land of God.

    • Supa Brutha

      Just don’t ever try to date a Jewish girl, honky, or her parents will try to circumsize you with a lawn mower.

      • Texas Patriot

        Do you speak from personal experience?

      • objectivefactsmatter

        Thanks for the tip.

        I’d say you have bigger problems than offering hateful delusional advice on the Internet.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      “The only difference between Christians and Jews is that Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised of God. If anything, Jesus proclaimed that the Jewish faith was inadequate to the transformative spiritual purposes of God, and even stated that “If your virtue goes no deeper than the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” The Jews had a problem with that then, and may still have a problem with that idea now. As Daniel Greenfield points out (and is plain for all to see), the situation with Muslims is even worse. ”

      According to the Bible, everyone else is worse than the Jews. The Jews are to the Bible what American government is to the world. America has the worst government ever, except for all the others.

      But yeah, worshiping a satanic idol like Allah and an anti-Christ man like Mohamed probably does rank at the very bottom.

      “The best strategy for Christians in the middle east? Get out while you still can.”

      The best Christian strategy is to get out? Or the best humanistic strategy for cultural Christians is to get out?

      “The best strategy for Israel? Be relentless in your response to Muslim aggression, and always require the aggressors to pay a disproportionate price by forfeiture and forced expulsion from their lands. In this way, either the attacks by Muslim aggressors will cease, or Israel will eventually be able to reconquer the entirety of the Promised Land of God.”

      That’s the best strategy for all righteous people.

      • Texas Patriot

        “The best Christian strategy is to get out? Or the best humanistic strategy for cultural Christians is to get out?”

        The best strategy for all Christians is to get out of Israel and the middle east in general. If we can help Israel defend her birthright to the Promised Land, fine. But Israel should be able to handle that without anyone’s help. Ultimately, Israel is for the Jews, and they will have their hands full with the Shia to the North and the Sunni to the South.

        As long as Jews remain Jews and Muslims remain Muslims, they will be mortal enemies and hate each other. There is no stopping the blood feud between Muslims and Jews, and Christians who are able to do so should extricate themselves from the crossfire. There is plenty of work elsewhere that would be much more productive.

        Christians have a global and universalist mission, and it is much more spiritual rather than territorial. Instead of hating our enemies, we are taught to pray for them and work for their benefit in whatever way we can, and that includes all people of all religions everywhere, including both Jews and Muslims.

  • Judahlevi

    The Christians in Israel finally recognize whose fate they should cast their lot with – and it is not Islam. The rock of Islam on one side (which will crush them) or the pluralism of the Jewish state on the other. In Israel, they can practice without fear of being tortured or murdered. Which is their best choice?

    Until Islam grows up and joins the community of respectable world religions which do not force their religious beliefs on others, they will, and should be, a pariah among world religions. There are different paths to G-d, Judaism does not believe in only one path. Religious freedom is a universal right.

    This Christian priest is stating the obvious. Better to be part of Israel than to be a Christian in any Arab country.

    • Texas Patriot

      Actually, Christians and Jews should get along fine. Jesus taught that prayer should always be done in private, and never in public. Therefore, other than getting together occasionally for purposes of sharing the Body and Blood of Christ, Christians do not need the large churches or synagogues and mosques or the other public displays of religiosity that seem to be such an essential part of Judaism and Islam. For Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, faith is an extremely private matter and really need not enter into the public sphere at all.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        “Actually, Christians and Jews should get along fine. Jesus taught that prayer should always be done in private, and never in public. ”

        Yeah, there’s that. And the fact that Jesus was a Jew.

        • Texas Patriot

          “Jesus was a Jew”

          Yes, Jesus was a Jew, but a Jew like no other. St. Paul, a former Jewish persecutor of Christians, asked the question, “Who is the true Jew?” His answer was this. It is not the circumcision of the flesh that makes one a Jew, but rather the circumcision of the heart. And in that regard, if there ever was a “true Jew”, it was Jesus.

          There has never been a greater critic of Judaism than Jesus. Basically Jesus taught that despite their hyper-religiosity and their meticulous attention to all sorts of laws, the Jews were missing the point. He stated specifically that “If your virtue goes no deeper than the scribes and the pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” Whereas Moses had taught the commandment of “no murder”, Jesus taught the commandment of “no anger”. Whereas Moses taught the commandment of “no adultery”, Jesus taught the commandment of “no lust”. Whereas Moses had taught the commandment of loving your friends and neighbors, Jesus taught the commandment of going further to the point of forgiving and praying for your enemies.

          The truth is that Jesus taught that salvation was much more difficult than the Jews had ever imagined, and of course they hated him for that.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Yes or no, Jews can become “Christian” just like anyone else?

          • Texas Patriot

            Of course.

    • Texas Patriot

      It’s better to be a Christian no matter where you are. But unless you want to be a Christian martyr, it’s probably a good idea to get out of the middle east. ;-)

  • Lancelot Camelot

    The Bible obliges christian arab-Israelis/christian to be loyal citizen in romans 13.1 to 7. In islam loyalty is to the Islamic nation “umman”

  • Lancelot Camelot

    New Testament , romans 13:1 command christian “arab-Israeli” to be loyal to the nation state they are citizen of , as a matter of conscience before God. In Islam the loyalty are to the Ummah, the islamic nation.