A Month After Joining IDF, Christian Arab Pastor’s Son Recounts Beating, Cries of ‘Traitor’
“Despite being attacked because of his father’s support for IDF recruitment among Arab Christians, the son of Father Gabriel Nadaf says a month into basic training that “I’m not afraid,” Israel’s Channel 2 News reported on Tuesday.
“I did not have to enlist, I volunteered for the army because I live in this country and I want to contribute. For years I knew what I wanted to do,” he said.
And not only that. 18-year-old Jubran Nadaf, who recently completed a basic training course for radio technicians and will soon begin his duties, hopes to continue on to officer training later in his service.
A year ago, a 21-year-old Arab Nazareth resident was arrested on suspicion of attacking Jubran with an iron bar, and his father reports being regularly threatened.
“They told me I was a traitor and beat me,” Jubran said of the ordeal, which required a three-day hospitalization for his injuries.
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.
“I will make a prediction,” Father Nadaf, told The Algemeiner in November. “Next year, in 2015, there will be 400 Christian recruits into the IDF.
While his father obviously influenced his recruitment, Jubran said he knew knew he wanted to get into uniform years earlier.
“I do not care if you beat me up or curse me, nothing frightens me,” he said.
“Every day there are threats on my life,” Father Nadaf noted.
“They threaten to tear me to pieces, and even offered $300,000 to anyone who would hurt me,” he recounted.
While change is not easy and Jubran is his first son to enlist, Nadaf senior said “it was very exciting. It’s always dangerous, but if we were afraid we wouldn’t have taken this step.”
In mid-August, thirty members of Israel’s first pre-military course specifically tailored for Christian citizens – among then four women – celebrated their graduation in a formal ceremony in Haifa
Israeli law does not require most non-Jews to serve in the military. But in April, the IDF launched a campaign to encourage more Christians to volunteer, mailing out voluntary enlistment forms to potential recruits. About 128,000 Christians currently live in Israel.
“We are actively working toward integrating all populations [into the army], and see this [pre-military course for Christians] as a very important step in that direction,” according to Gadi Agmon, the head of the army’s Human Resources, Planning and Management Division.
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.
Meanwhile, Father Nadaf is continuing his activities at parlor meetings, conferences and lectures.
“We won’t let the extremists win – be we do take care. In the end, we will defeat the violence against Christian soldiers.
“The process is well advanced; in 2013, 150 Christians joined the IDF and all are proud of their uniforms and service. We will continue to contribute to the country,” Nadaf said.