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November 21, 2014 2:59 pm

Israeli Priest Gabriel Nadaf Confident of Greater Christian Recruitment Into IDF (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth and spiritual leader of a forum for the enlistment of Christian youth in the IDF, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Prime Minister's Office of Communication.

Father Gabriel Nadaf with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: GPO.

“I will make a prediction,” Father Gabriel Nadaf told me with a smile. “Next year, in 2015, there will be 400 Christian recruits into the IDF.”

Father Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from the town of Yafia, in the north of Israel, has spent the last two years urging Israel’s Christian community to join the Israeli military, based on his conviction that the Jewish state is the only country in the Middle East where Christians can practice their faith free from persecution. The numbers would appear to bear him out; in marked contrast to the other states in the region, where Christian populations have declined dramatically because of oppression and political conflict, the size of the community in Israel has more than quadrupled since independence in 1948, from 34,000 to 158,000 in 2012.

Prior to Nadaf’s recruitment drive, an average of only 30 Christians joined the IDF each year. In 2013, Nadaf’s efforts pushed that number up to 150; hence his confident assertion that this figure will be more than doubled in 2015.

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Ordained as a priest in 1995, Father Nadaf has worked for the Greek Orthodox community across the country, including a spell as the spokesman for the Patriarch in Jerusalem. The dawn of the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2010, which highlighted the threat posed to Middle Eastern Christians by the various Islamist movements, persuaded Nadaf that Israeli Christians should recognize Israel as the sanctuary that it is by serving in its armed forces – “as do,” Nadaf said, “other minorities like the Druze, the Circassians and the Beduin, who are all Arabic-speaking minorities and have all served in the IDF.”

Nadaf was on a four day visit to New York and Washington this week, during which he met with Jewish and Christian leaders under the auspices of “Face of Israel,” a Jerusalem non-profit that promotes some of Israel’s most compelling voices from the worlds of culture and politics. At each of his encounters, he emphasized the vast chasm separating Israel from the rest of the region when it comes to respecting freedom of worship.

“In Syria, there were 2 million Christians. Now there are only 200,000. In Iraq, in the year 2000, there were 4 million Christians, whereas now there are only 300,000,” Nadaf said. “The daily massacres experienced by Christians have opened the eyes of Christians in Israel.”

In the context of Israeli-Arab politics, Nadaf’s message is a radical departure from the nationalist and separatist attitude encouraged by political parties like the Communist Hadash and the nationalist Balad. Indeed, Nadaf does not describe himself as an Arab, preferring the term “Aramean Christian Israeli” instead.

“Jesus himself spoke Aramaic and lived in the land of Israel,” Nadaf said.

The Israeli government has already agreed that Israeli citizens will be able to define themselves as “Aramean” in legal documents. Last month, 2 year old Yaakov Halul from the northern village of Gush Halav was formally given this identity on his official documents, becoming the first Israeli Christian to register as an Aramean.

For Nadaf, the key goal is integration, which is why he places so much stress on Christian recruitment into the IDF. “The military in Israel is a fundamental base of society,” Nadaf said. “It’s like an entrance ticket to society. The Christians, as a minority that lives within a minority, have to protect their identity and their society within Israel. To integrate, they must serve in the Israeli army and believe that if Israel is threatened by terrorism, there will be no place left for Christians in the Middle East.”

Not surprisingly, Nadaf’s positions have caused a strong degree of consternation among the traditional Arab leadership in Israel. Radical Arab Knesset members Haneen Zoabi and Basil Ghattas have pushed the Greek Orthodox Church to fire Nadaf, so far without success. Even more seriously, Nadaf said he receives threats via social media on a daily basis, while in September last year his son was badly beaten up by extremists, forcing him to spend several days in hospital.

Israeli politicians, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have warmly embraced Nadaf. “Members of the Christian community must be allowed to enlist in the IDF. You are loyal citizens who want to defend the state and I salute you and support you,” Netanyahu said after meeting with Nadaf in 2013.

With tensions in the Jerusalem area currently escalating, the importance of integration is again being underlined by Israeli leaders, who were united in condemning the decision of Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni to dismiss Arab workers from construction projects in schools and kindergartens. Responding to Shimoni’s announcement, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett pointed out that ,”Ninety-nine percent of Israeli Arabs are loyal and want to integrate. There is a tiny minority that uses violence and causes terrorism, and we must crack down on that, but we must also integrate and bring closer the vast majority of Israeli Arabs. This is a key to our future here.”

It is also, as far as Nadaf is concerned, a key to a secure future for Christians as well as Jews. Last month, he said, he visited the Golan Heights with a group of young Christians, some of whom will be part of the larger intake into the IDF he forecasts for next year. “They won’t listen any more to the Arab leaders,” Nadaf said. “Parties like Hadash and Balad haven’t brought Christians and Jews closer together, and the young people are tired of this attitude. That’s why people will be very surprised by the number of Christians who will go to the army.”

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  • Kris Kristian

    In South Africa, the Muslims have been using Goebbels theory. The bigger the lie, the more often told, the more the world will believe the lie.
    Now they have Christians and a Christian priest, AND A CERTAIN ARCHBISHOP, WHO BLASPHEMED BY SAYING THAT “GOD FAVOURS THE PALESTINIANS” fighting against any firm importing goods from Israel
    Unfortunately, in Cape Town, there is a Muslim population of more than 700 thousand
    The Christian world must wake up. After the Jews, it will be the Christians.

    So far, they have targeted Woolworths, to force them to stop importing from Israel (but they do not force any firm which buys from Turkey or any Arab country to stop buying from those countries.)
    And they have many white Christians supporting the BDS against Woolworths,
    They have even come up with the stories that they are “share holders” (probably 10 shares)
    They have spread the lie that Woolworths is suffering and loosing many millions in the BDS.
    Although Woolworths only import figs (in season) and one or two other items.
    Next, they are going to go for Pick n Pay, Checkers, Spar, huge firms, which import many food items (Kosher) from Israel.
    But they are playing with fire. In the end, they will have to pay huge damages to all those firms.

    The black students have put pigs heads in Woolworths Kosher meat sections. They are the future leaders, Woolworths does not have Kosher meat sections.
    This is so funny, that it is sad to think that those idiots have no clue, and will one day be the leaders of the South African governemnt
    Like most Arab countries, they have called Israel an apartheid state.
    But very few of those have ever been to Israel.
    Yet, it is the Christians and Druze in Israel who value their Israeli citizenship and they have full freedom which no Islamic country will give them.
    Every Jew, Christian, Muslim, Druze, Bahaai have full freedom. Unlike any Islamic Arab country.
    THERE IS NO APARTHEID IN ISRAEL, ONLY IN THE ISLAMIC ARAB COUNTRIESIS IS THERE APARTHEID/

    THEY WANT TO CALL ISRAEL AN APARTHEID COUNTRY, BECAUSE, APARANTLY, APARTHEID IS REGARDED INTERNATIONALLY AS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.AND THEY WANT TO SUE ISRAEL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND WAR CRIMES. BUT IF THEY GO TO THE INTERNATIONAL CHRIMINAL COURT, IT MAY BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR ISRAEL. EVERY CHRISTIAN, DRUZE ETC WILL GIVE EVIDNCE FOR ISRAEL. IT WILL BE THROWN OUT OF COURT, AND THOSE IDIOTS WILL HAVE TO FOOT A VERY HEAVY BILL.

  • bea green JP BA

    Father Gabriel Nadaf, you are wonderful!

    I wish you health and happiness.

    Bea Green
    (living in England, having come here on the Kindertransport from Munich just before the war)

  • MORDECAI BEN NATAN

    The Christian world should read what this priest says
    Time for the Christian politicians to wake up.
    As much as there is no future for Jews in Arab countries, there is no future for Christians in Arab countries.
    The only country where Christians are safe, protected by the government, is Israel.
    Where all citizens, Jewish, Muslim, Druze, Christian, Bahaai have full freedom of religion is in Israel.
    The tragedy, is that what was Christian countries, like Britain, Ireland,. Sweden, France, etc, have all fallen for the Islamic lies about Israel. Those countrioes are being swamped by Muslims. In 10 years, those coubntries will be taken over by Muslim majority. I hope they will enjopy Sharia law. WAKE UPI CHRISTIANS.
    Any Christian who wants to know the Truth, should speak to THE INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN EMBASSY, JERUSALEM. RACHEL IMANU STREET, JERUSALEM. THERE CAN BE NO BETTER PLACE IN THE WORLD TO LEARN THE TRUTH

    Unfortunately, the Christian countries have all fallen for the propaganda lies about Israel.

    The Gaza war, was shown by the Arab financed TV. BBC< CNN< Skye, Al Jazeera, where they made Israel out to be war criminals. They showed children and women killed. But many of those photos, were taken from Syria, where Christian churches have been destroyed, and Christians persecuted.

    I was watching BBC one day, and from the way the war was reported, and shown, made my stomach turn. It was so bad, that had I not been a Jew, and not known the truth, I would have gone out and killed every Israeli.

    TV and the press are the biggest forms of causing hatred.
    The reported "civilian" deaths was so exagerated, but no terrorist were ever shown. They were also "civilians"

    But the media never shows, or reports how many rockets etc fired fired at Israeli civilians.
    They hardly reported on the tunnels.
    They never mentioned that Hamas has in their charter, the TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL AND THE MURDER OF EVERY JEW ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

    Israel is called an apartheid state. Yet, every citizen in Israel has full freedom.
    Not like Islamic states. Not like Abbas comments that if there is ever a PA state,no Jew will be allowed to live there, and any Arab who sells land to a Jew will be exEcuted.

    ISRAEL IS THE LAND WHICH WAS GIVEN TO THE JEWS BY GOD.
    ANYONE OPPOSING THAT WILL HAVE TO FACE GOD ONE DAY.
    IT MAY BE SOONER THAN THEY KNOW.

  • Jose Duran

    God bless all that seek peace in the land of Israel

  • LYNN

    I believe there is a war coming against Israel …I am a registered nurse and midwife but am I too old for the IDF..I’m 57.

  • Alalvi

    Praise God almighty for this wonderful guidance .

  • ALL NEEDED IS A DEMOCRACY WERE ALL RESIDENTS IN BOTH AREAS, ISRAEL AND PALESTINE, HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND NAME A GOVERNMENT GROUP TO MANAGE THE COUNTRY(IES), MOISES.

  • Billy Bumps

    I would that I was young enough to serve in the IDF…
    What an honor to be a part of the IDF….

  • Noellsq

    No one should be surprised you have a country that allows all religions to survive and practice their beliefs. This right should come natural but it does not and must be fought for.

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