• Print

By MYRON LOVE
In the usual upside down state in which  the world seems to be in regard to Israel, Israel is frequently condemned for its treatment of non-Jewish minorities while the large-scale persecution and murder of Christians throughout the world is largely ignored.

Also largely ignored are voices such as that of Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth in the Galilee, singing the praises of life in Israel for Christians.
As reported in an article in Germany’s Algemeiner Journal in late March (and subsequently reprinted on other online blogs), Nadaf acknowledges that he has become a controversial figure in Israel for the simple reason that he embraces Zionism, Jewish sovereignty in Israel, and the tolerance, respect and opportunity that has grown out of that sovereignty for all.
“I believe that our youth – Christian youth –should fully integrate into Israeli society,” he said. “Part and parcel of that integration includes serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israel’s army, or undertaking some other form of national service, which Israel routinely provides for teenagers.”
In 2012, he reports, a few Christian IDF officers and he founded the I.C.R.F–the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum. “On the positive side,” he said, “hundreds of Arab or Aramean Christian youth have heeded our call and served their country with distinction. They have been embraced by their fellow soldiers, who regard them as comrades in arms and not as strangers in their midst.
“On the downside, the blowback, as it were, from my efforts among rejectionist elements in the Christian and the Muslim Arab community has been intense. Christian soldiers have been harassed by their neighbors and, in many cases, by their own families. These soldiers are forced to change out of their IDF uniforms before returning to their home towns, for fear that they may be harassed on their way home.”
For Nadaf personally, his conviction and actions have led to numerous death threats, excommunication by the Orthodox Church Council and the prevention of his entrance to the Church of Annunciation.
“None of this has anything to do with the Israeli government or the Jewish community,” he pointed out. “The assertion of Israel as a so-called apartheid state is complete nonsense. My successes and challenges speak loudly as to where the real problems lie for my fellow Christians.
“It pains me to say this, but it must be said. The incitement against me, my campaign, and all those Christians who have sought to integrate into Israeli society has been led by Arab leaders from Israel and abroad, and even by some Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.”
He also indicts a variety of so-called “human rights” groups in Israel – such as Adalah, Mossawa and Baladna – that have joined the incitement campaign and have accused the leaders of the Christian-Arab community in Israel, who support integration, of collaboration with the IDF.
“These Israeli non-profit organizations – some are composed of Israeli Arabs and others (including Israeli Jews) are on the extreme left and are anti-Zionist - reject Israel as the national home of the Jewish people,” he noted. “They would like to cancel the Law of Return and remove the Jewish character of Israel.
“Clearly these NGOs have no interest in seeing Christian Arabs become part of Israeli society. Much like the Arab countries that have used Palestinians in various refugee camps as pawns in fighting the State of Israel, these NGOs are content to reduce my community to cannon fodder in their efforts to de-legitimize Israel.
“So my community is effectively being told to fight for their continued marginalization by Israeli society, even though it is the Israeli government’s goal to bring them more fully into the mainstream. Doesn’t the Christian community deserve the right to follow our own will and integrate, if it so chooses, into Israeli society? Not according to most of the NGOs that say they are assisting our community.
“As Christians in Israel survey the situation of our brethren in the wider Middle East, we are appalled by the persecution that so many have experienced in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, among others. Truly, it has only been in Israel where Christians can fully practice our faith and be productive members of society.
“We are not interested in misguided policies that would only bring harm and dislocation to us. Instead we see and appreciate the opportunities to live full Christian lives in the Jewish State.
“It is important that Christians around the world understand that Jewish Israel has been a responsible steward for its Christians. We should be supported and not demonized for our efforts to more fully join this benevolent society.”
Incidentally, Nadaf views the term “Christian Arab” as a misnomer. “We are Arameans,” he said, “descendants of people who lived here in Israel since the time of the Bible. Israel’s Interior Ministry has recently recognized us as the “Aramean nation,” following a lengthy public campaign conducted with the help of a number of Israeli Zionist organizations.”