Israeli Christians Moving in a New Direction

IschrIsraeli Christians surveying the current situation faced by Christians throughout the Arab Middle East have come to the realization that the Jewish State of Israel is the only country in the region that protects its Christian minority.  It prompted a recent conference in Jerusalem titled, “Israeli Christians: Breaking Free? The Advent of an Independent Christian Voice in Israel, that took place on Monday, September 23, 2013. The speakers included Father (Fr.) Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, and spiritual leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum; Lt. (IDF) Shaadi Khalloul, spokesman for the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, and Captain (IDF) Bishara Shlayan, the founder of a Christian Israeli party.

To some people this Israeli-Christian conference was nothing less than historical in nature.  Others considered it as perhaps a shift of an ancient paradigm. Whatever one might choose to call this brave Christian group, it is the first time Israeli Christians have declared loud and clear “We are not Arabs, we are Christians who speak Arabic.”

The ongoing turmoil in the Arab Middle East, and the possible breakup of existing states such as Syria and Iraq, have sharpened ethnic and religious consciousness among Christians and Kurds, who seek to retain their identity. That is also true of Lebanese Christians who reject the notion of being Arab. 1,400 years of Arab conquest and subjugation obscured the fact that Arabism and Islam were imposed in the Seventh Century C.E. on the non-Arab majority of people of the Middle East by hordes of Arab raiders from the Arabian Peninsula.

Forced into the language and culture of the conquering Arabs, millions of Aramaic-speaking people adopted Arabic.  Further millions were either forced to accept Islam by the sword, or in order to maintain status and position, sought conversion to Islam. In the intervening centuries those who stuck to their identity as Christians and Jews were persecuted, or at best tolerated as the “people of the Book.” Christians and Jews were “dhimified,” namely, second-class citizens, who became dependent on the protection of a benevolent Muslim Monarch or Sheikh. It is this legacy of cowering before the intimidating power of the Muslim majority demanding Christian loyalty in exchange for protection from persecution that made Christians in the Middle East cast away their non-Arab identities. Thus, most non-Arab Christian Egyptian Copts, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Syrians somehow became Arabs.

Keeping in mind the history of Christians in the region, and speaking first, Fr. Naddaf declared, “I am here to open the public’s eyes, if we want to refrain from lying to our own souls and to the general public, we must say clearly and unwaveringly: enough!”  Fr. Naddaf went on to say, “The Christian public wants to integrate into Israeli society, against the wishes of its old leadership. There are those who keep pushing us to the margins, keeping us the victims of a nationalism (Arab nationalism) that is not our own, and of a conflict that has nothing to do with us.”

Fr. Naddaf has been condemned and ostracized by the Christian establishment, and particularly by the higher clergy. He and his friends have received death threats from Arab politicians. Fr. Naddaf’s “sins” include his support for young Israeli Christians joining the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or their performing national service. Fr. Naddaf is a unique and special friend of the Jewish state in a region where Christian clergy gain legitimacy only when they support their Arab state’s anti-Israel propaganda. Often times this is expressed in the World Council of Churches and Middle East Council of Churches condemnation of Israel for alleged oppression of Palestinians.

At the conference, Fr. Naddaf articulated the deep connections the Christians have to the land of Israel. He referred to the fact that here in Israel Jesus Christ’s doctrine first emerged. He pointed out that the Christian faith came out of the Jewish faith and its biblical roots. He quoted the founder of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, Maj. Ihab Shlayan who said, “The Christians will not be made into hostages, or allow themselves to be controlled by those who wish to impose their nationality, religion and way of life upon us. We will not agree to hide behind the groups that control the streets. We want to live in Israel — brothers in arms and brothers in peace. We want to stand guard and serve as the first line of defense in this Holy Land, the Land of Israel.”

In closing, Fr. Naddaf said, “We have broken through the barrier of fear. The time has come to prove our loyalty, pay our dues and demand our rights.” Despite the hardships he and his group of Christians face, he is committed to continue his work on behalf of Christian integration into Israeli society. “Because the State of Israel is our heart, Israel is a holy state, a strong state, and its people, Jews and Christians alike are united under one covenant.”

Next to speak was Lt. Shaadi Khalloul of Gush Halav (Jish), a mixed Maronite-Christian and Jewish village in the Galilee.  He has fought the Israeli Ministry of Interior to recognize his community as Aramaic Christians. An officer in the IDF Paratroopers Brigade, Khalloul believes that the way to integrate into Israeli society is through serving in the IDF, which he describes as a “melting pot.” Another way is through education. It seems that Israel’s Christian population is unaware of its own history, and has adopted the history of the Arabs and Islam. Khalloul said, “The typical Christian student thinks he belongs to the Arab people and the Islamic nation, instead of speaking to the people of whom he truly shares his roots – the Jewish people, whose origins are in the land of Israel.”

Remarking on the notion of a “state of all its citizens’ vs. a Jewish-democratic state, Khalloul said that he preferred a Jewish state that takes care of its citizens over a state governed by all its citizens, without a Jewish identity.

Speaking last, Sea Captain Bishara Shlayan, 58, of Nazareth, initiated a drive to create a new Christian Israeli political party called Bnei Ha’brit (Allies party). He explained, “We were raised on Arab political parties, the Communists, and then the national Democratic Assembly. In time, I realized where these Arab parties were taking us – only against Israel.” Shlayan recounted that in his youth he received a red flag, and today he said, “Our children are being raised on the Green flag, and on anti-Israel culture.” In a Jerusalem Post interview (7/16/2013) Shlayan said, “I want people to raise the Israeli flag,” and added that his first project would be to change the educational curriculum in the Arab sector so that children are taught to be proud of the Israeli flag.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Christians comprised over 20% of the population in the Middle East. Today, they account for less than 5%. The one place where the Christian community has seen growth is in Israel. In 1948, the Christian community numbered 34,000.  In 2013, it stood at over 158,000.  Although the annual growth rate among Christian Israelis is low (1.3%) due to its urban concentration, high academic achievements, late marriages and low birthrates, the community’s future is far more secure than elsewhere in the Middle East.

It may only be a small group of Israeli Christians that have broken free and are seeking a new direction for the Christian community that is threatened throughout the region. It is nevertheless, a brave new start that is bound to gain steam as Christians in particular are victimized throughout the region by radicalized Muslim majorities.

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Don’t miss Jamie Glazov’s video interview with Raymond Ibrahim about Islam’s new war on Christians:

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  • Chezwick

    Fine article….excepting the following sentence…

    “….the fact that Arabism and Islam were imposed in the Seventh Century C.E. on the non-Arab majority of people of the Middle East by hordes of Arab raiders from the Arabian Peninsula.”

    I would have written it THIS way….

    “….the fact that Arabism and Islam were imposed in the Seventh Century C.E. on the non-Arab majority of people of the Middle East by the Arab invaders who came from the Arabian Peninsula.”

    It’s not semantics….it’s just dropping a single word that has the potential to repulse some of those readers whose sympathies might still be in flux.

    • defcon 4

      I think “hordes” is appropriate. The muslime invaders weren’t friendly, fun loving, tolerant people trying to make friends. They were raiders, slavers, looters and rapists.

      • Chezwick

        Yes indeed….when I substituted the word “invaders” for “hordes”, I was definitely suggesting that the Muslims were “friendly, fun-loving, tolerant people trying to make friends.”

        • defcon 4

          The US invaded Nazi Germany, but the US Army didn’t consist of a horde of rapists, looters and murders doing so in the name of a death cult.

      • N. Wasse

        In regard to the word “hordes” One of the strange facts about the Arab invasions that started in the 7th century leading to the destruction of the great civilizations of late antiquity both the Byzantine/Greek and the Persians empires is: How can a few illiterate Arabs that are no more than caravan raiders, looters and thieves invade and destroy great and very advanced civilizations and take for example the case of Egypt where the population on the eve of the Arab invasion was 7 millions and the invading Arabs as per Arab historians were only 4000!
        And it is very strange but we really do not know who these invaders were. Some historians now believe that they were Persians that already converted to Islam as the Persians were still trying to defeat the Greeks after their loss in the Persian/Greek war (616 AD to 628 AD) The Arabs have always been uneducated parasites and no more. Food for thought

        • defcon 4

          Dr. Bill Warner proposed that the Persian and Byzantine empires were decimated by long internecine wars (between each other).

          • N. Wasse

            This is what we were told by historians up until the past few years when archaeology changed the way historians understand about what really happened. Yes both empires were weak at the end of the war in 628 AD but remember that Russia was in ruins by 1942 but it was able to rearm and destroy the Nazis and rebuild within a few years after the end of the war
            There is no doubt that the Greek Persian war was a long war and there was great destruction that afflicted the cities of both empires but in past wars the recovery was fast and the rebuilding was fast. However, the Arab invasion did some thing very unique as per archaeological findings : It dragged all of the Middle East into what one can call the dark ages that lasted for three long centuries. So the theory that these invaders were Persians that converted to Islam is very plausible

          • Harald Eigerson

            Yes, all that and population the decimation brought about by plague. The biggest killer of armies in antiquity and all the way up to modern times was disease.

  • Hetero+AmorphousMediaDigitalis

    What’s funny is the Christians come from Arabic backgrounds, not Hebrew? = More abuse by Israel against non-Jew faith than by the Arabic people who let them become Christians.

    Quote:
    “Next to speak was Lt. Shaadi Khalloul of Gush Halav (Jish), a mixed Maronite-Christian and Jewish village in the Galilee. He has fought the Israeli Ministry of Interior to recognize his community as Aramaic Christians.

    Jesus was Aramaic in language and culture. In Aramaic, a language older than Hebrew, the phonetic name of God was “El-aw” or “Elahh”. That is where the later Arabic name of “Allah” comes from.

    • Ralph

      I have been to the Wailing Wall. I walked right in. I did not have a hat on. Many Jews became really excited. Through hand language or whatever they indicated that we needs a hat.

      I put the hat on. The Jews returned to their studies and contemplation. There were no problems.

      I asked about going to the Temple of the Mount. The Muslims said it was not possible.

      One time when I entered the courtyard in front of a Mosque, I had the feeling that I was going to get piled on. All the young men were jumpy.

      Why would I want to visit a mosque? Well I tried to visit all the historical & cultural sights of the city. I started by visiting Parliament, Big Ben and Westminister Abbey. Along the way I found a Westminister Cathedral. I did not know such a thing existed. The Cathedral is more aesthetically pleasing than the Abbey. It is worth the visit. So when I saw the mosque, I thought I should see it. I asked the guard in front of the mosque, if I could enter the courtyard in front of the mosque. He indicated that I could. Still the young men were jumpy. Outside the mosque were bills posted on the lampposts near the Mosque that denounced every last news agency in America.

      So out of all my experiences I would trust a Jew over a Muslim. I would expect to find some chauvinism among the Jews, but I expect that among people of any culture. But I expect more of it and worse among the Muslim. That has been my experience and what I see on the news long before FPM was ever published.

      • Hetero+AmorphousMediaDigitalis

        Thank you for sharing your story. But there is a significant difference between the Wailing Wall and visiting and Synagogue or Mosque. The Temple Mount may have been in a war region, so for your own safety they were not allowing visitors.

        The Wailing Wall is thought to be the ruins of the Second Temple. There is not speech or communication for someone to eavesdrop on that would make you a spy. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) regularly sneaks about or poses as tourists in order to spy on others.

        Here is a video for you to learn about Israel.
        30min summary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4ZfnpN4Dfc
        1 hour talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOaxAckFCuQ

        • defcon 4

          What a great example of the delusional psychopathy of muslime antisemitism.

          • Hetero+AmorphousMediaDigitalis

            I was raised in the Jewish Faith. You are an atrocious insulting person.

        • sol

          1. Muslims don’t like non-Muslims on the Temple Mount.
          2. The IDF spies like you say, but only in your dreams.
          3. Your post shows your avoidance of facts.

          • defcon 4

            This despite the fact the Temple Mount has nothing whatsoever to do w/islam.

      • defcon 4

        You won’t be walking into Mecca, or Medina if you’re not a muslime — because the penalty for doing so is DEATH.

      • Moa

        I too visited the Wailing Wall (I’m from New Zealand). No hat required.

        I also did the tour along the underground part of the Western Wall, past the “Holy of Holies”. No hat – and lead by an excellent women guide.

        @Hetero+AmorphousMediaDigitalis – why don’t you go to Israel and find out for yourself. It is full or normal people trying to live their lives despite what the religious nutters all around them are trying to do (some of them are Jewish nutters, but far far more are the genocidal Islamic maniacs).

    • http://atheismexposed.tripod.com/ True Freethinker

      They were Aramaic speaking Christians before the Arabic language was ever written down!

      In reality its the Muslims who come from other backgrounds, Aramaic or Coptic speaking and Christian!

  • dartson

    The big question now is whether the Israeli Christians will vote for this new party at the next election, instead of giving their voices to the terror-supporting Arab Muslim parties.

  • Hetero+AmorphousMediaDigitalis

    “Khalloul said, “The typical Christian student thinks he belongs to the Arab people and the Islamic nation, instead of speaking to the people of whom he truly shares his roots – the Jewish people, whose origins are in the land of Israel.””

    Not too surprising.

    Jesus was Aramaic in language and culture. In Aramaic, a language older than Hebrew (did you know that?), the phonetic name of God was “El-aw” or “Elahh”. That is where the later Arabic name of “Allah” comes from.

    Jesus’s phonetic name History.
    Es’sa ~ Aramaic
    Ii’soun ~ Greek
    Yay’soun ~ Old Latin
    Yay’sus ~ Medieval Latin
    “J” was invented about 1150AD.
    “J” is not used in Italian even today.
    Iesus ~ Italian. English presses replaced the letter “i” with the letter “J”.
    “Jesus” when the English 1500AD tried to pronounce and use French “J”.

    The Arabic people call him “Isa”. Nearly the same as his real true name.

    • Iulis

      Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew are all semitic languages. Aramaic maybe or is closer to Arabic than Hebrew.

      That does not make Arab Muslims the friends of Aramaic speakers nor does it make Hebrew speakers the enemies of Aramaic speakers.

      You point was?

      • Hetero+AmorphousMediaDigitalis

        More than one point. Just stating Arabic people are more likely to become Christians than Hebrew speaking people. I’ve heard some very vicious things from people who thought the Jewish faith is better than the Christian.

        Also throwing in an interesting history of the name ‘Jesus’. The ‘J’ is an accident because the printing presses wanted a fancy ‘i’ and used the new letter ‘j’ in it’s place. iEsus

        If you want to see jumpy people try telling friends at church that Jesus’s name is “Isa” or that God’s original name was “El-aw”?

      • N. Wasse

        Syro-Aramaic is really the mother language of all three languages and yes Syro-Aramaic had great influence on Arabic (the Arabic alphabet is derived from Syriac alphabet) as well as the fact that most of foreign words in the Qur’an are loan words from Syro-Aramaic and not Hebrew. And even if the source of the word or the sentence is really the Hebrew OT it would take the Syriac form of the word or sentence as in the case of the Shima’
        Oh the Arabs? their early ulama realized that Syriac had great influence on the Arabic language and the likes of al-Tabari indeed admitted that there are Syriac words in the Qur’an but as time went by the connection with Syriac was lost and even most educated Arabs today do not realize that some of the words in the Qur’an (eg: Tur and Asfar) are not really Arabic words but Syriac words and the explanation given is and are you ready? The Qur’an claims in Q 12:2 that it is Arabic Qur’an so these words must be Arabic words!

    • http://atheismexposed.tripod.com/ True Freethinker

      German and Dutch are so closely related that they are virtually dialects of the same language.

      Does that mean the Dutch should have welcomed the Nazis as their “Germanic brothers”?

      • defcon 4

        LOL, that was good and I’m sure that’s exactly the islam0nazi’s point. Since Jesus was Issa, and he spoke Aramaic, then naturally Christians should be muslimes, because they’re really brothers.

        • Sacco&Vanzetti

          No way !!! more brothers are the jewish people for christians

    • defcon 4

      Aramaic is older than Hebrew, proof please Farshad.

      • sol

        It’s easy enough to google. In fact the Kaddish is in aramaic. The Gemara is almost entirely in Aramaic. Most of the Book of Daniel (chapter 2:4 through 7), describing events that occurred in Babylon in the 4th century BCE, and parts of the Book of Ezra are also in Aramaic. The traditional ketubah and Jewish divorce document are also in Aramaic. The same is true of many hymns and prayers, such as the first paragraph of the Passover Haggadah, Etc.

        • defcon 4

          Um I thought that archaeologists have found Hebrew engravings from the house of David, which would predate the Babylonian conquest.

  • A Z

    Christians in Israel see what is happening to Christians in Syria and Egypt and what has happened to Christians in Lebanon and Iraq.

    They see that Christians are being treated worse over time by Muslims and it was already bad.

    This is a rational decision on their part.

  • Lanna

    The evil one has a short time on earth to create havoc…he will make the most of this time to attack God’s people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Marks/1266358046 Paul Marks

    Islam had one correct idea – as with the Classical World that idea was “every free man fights”.
    In the 7th century that idea had been lost in both the Byzantine Empire and in the Persian Empire – only a small group of people (subject to the state) had weapons and were expected to fight.
    That (and their total ruthlessness) is how the Muslims were able to invade and take over lands where they were greatly outnumbered.

  • http://alakhtal.wordpress.com/ Obaid Karki

    It’s foolish to ignore the fact that Junta who hijacked Egypt hijacked Copts too. Copts being Christians will grab west sympathy but not solution to their plight. Copts predicament is with Jesus not with Muslims. Are they Egyptian enough to survive? That’s what Jesus wanted to know from Copts. Copts wanted Jesus to aid them to throw Egyptians into the Mediterranean as Spaniard did to Muslims in Spain.

    • defcon 4

      “Copts predicament is with Jesus not Muslims” Do you actually believe your delusions? To be fair, I’ll bet in whatever islamic hellhole you come from your viewpoint would represent the truth. A truth that no one dares challenge publicly, because that’s allah’s way.

      • Harald Eigerson

        The root of Karki’s delusion may lie in Islamic occaisionalism a belief where the world is in a continuous state of re-creation by Mohammed’s god. It explains how they can say vile things about the origins of Jewish folk (the whole pigs and ape thing) and go back and rewrite the Old Testament to support their alternate version of reality The idea’s genesis cold be suras 2:65, 5:60 and 7:166. Occasionalism really got rolling in the ninth century and by the time Abu Hamid ibn Muhammed Al-Ghazali wrote his book The Incoherence of Philosophers; Neoplatonism and Aristotelian logic was well on its way to being haram. The end result of Islam’s embrace of occasionlism is more than a thousand years of ignorance and darkness. The West’s medieval experiment with and rejection of occasionalism led to the enlightenment and scientific advances that the Islamic world can only experience second hand.

    • N. Wasse

      I pity your likes! Copts are the real Egyptians and if anyone needs to leave Egypt and head back to Islamic hellholes the likes of Wahhabi land are members of the criminal Muslim Brotherhood
      You are blaming the victims
      But what is damaging to your case as far as I know the Copts never asked for help from any foreigners. Oh the criminal and terrorist organization and their leader the criminal Morsi? they were hoping that the US will invade Egypt and save them from the Egyptian army
      I feel sorry for you

  • tokoloshiman

    hypocrites! how long did it take betraying jews and siding with jew haters for christians to realize the truth. they knew all along! But now all of a sudden the jews are the good guys ! Give me a break christians , you will revert to overt jew hatred as soon as your thick skins are safe !

  • georgejochnowitz

    Where is Hanan Ashrawi on this issue? I believe that she cares more about destroying Israel than about helping her fellow Christians. That’s what Edward Said believed.

  • Moshe Ben-Jacob

    Arab or not you are idol worshippers and do not belong in Israel.

    • neshrim777

      You too, your red eye and your wall!

  • EVILHASWONAGAIN

    GOD, please, pretty please, let ISRAEL use it’s nuclear stockpile on the muslim countries of the world…

  • Suzanne

    The Christians in Israel are in a unique position to help the Jewish Israelis get a much better image worldwide. The Jewish Israelis certainly deserve their gratitude, too. I really don’t understand what has taken the Christians so long to stick up for the Jews when it’s been obvious all along who treats them better..

    • neshrim777

      It toke solong cause we felt haten by jews! But i think now the book changes, a new way comes in, we are uniteing with jews, cause we were always a family!