As pilgrims flock to holy sites and Jews prepare to go to work the next day, Israeli Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Naddaf continues his holy mission to recruit Christian soldiers into the Israeli Defense Forces. Unlike their Jewish neighbors, non-Jews in Israel are not required to serve in the IDF. Druze and Bedouin populations serve voluntarily, as do some 400 Arabs of both Christian and Muslim affiliation.The small number of Arab volunteers is largely due to nationalistic conflicts within the Arab world, conflicts that have made Father Gabriel Naddaf and his Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF) a target of both Muslim and Christian Arab contempt.
Forum members, including the priest, said they have been threatened, and Father Nadaf’s son was attacked in Nazareth. “Some people may say we are traitors,” said the younger Nadaf, who after his compulsory service wants to make a career in the army. “But I tell them to go live in Gaza if they are against Israel. We live here. This is my country and I have to give back.” Arab members of the Israeli Knesset are among opponents of the forum’s work, including its support for the recently passed legislation creating a specific Christian seat on the equal employment opportunities advisory committee that addresses job discrimination. They accused Israel and the forum of ignoring discrimination concerns and trying to divide Israel’s Arab population.
The attacks faced by Christian Arabs affiliated with the ICRF haven’t just caused them to be accused of dual loyalties. They’ve also motivated these Christian Arabs to observe that they are “Arabic speaking Christians” who, if they lived in any other country in the Middle East, would be facing persecution for their religious beliefs. After his son Judaan was attacked in the streets of Nazareth, Father Naddaf commented:
[M]y son very much wants to enlist, in the near future, and serve in a combat unit. He believes in what I do, that we all have a home here, that he also needs to give to the country. The country gives him his rights, and should receive what it is due in return. We all need to live here in peace, and protect the existence of the country that we live in, since our future is here.
Only a few weeks ago Judaan enlisted in the IDF:
This is “…a historic and exciting day at the Nadaf household and a happy day for Christians in Israel.” Nadaf stated, adding that he “sees this step as a personal example to Christian parents who teach their kids to love, cherish, honor and serve their country and contribute to society!”
The father and his organization have increased voluntary Arab recruitment from 30 to 150 persons per year. On the eve of one of the holiest days in the Christian year, Father Gabriel Naddaf continues to put his faith into action, sending a powerful statement about the importance of Israel to Christians across the globe.