Christian and Jewish Israeli leaders jointly underscored the shared ties and social responsibilities the two communities share.
Israel’s Christian Empowerment Council (CEC) held its third annual conference last Tuesday in Nazareth, where they celebrated the Christian holiday season while emphasizing the strong bonds between Christian Arabs and the State of Israel.
The event, headed by Father Gabriel Nadaf, an Israeli Greek Orthodox Priest and an outspoken supporter of Israel, was marked together with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Costa Rica’s Ambassador to Israel Istiban Parod and other dignitaries.
The conference was attended by more than 300 people, among whom were Israeli security officials, heads of Jewish and Arab municipalities, religious figures; Muslim, Bedouin and Druze sheikhs, priests and various church representatives from Israel and abroad,
“We and the Jews are the native roots of Israel,” Nadaf declared. “We need to be citizens with equal obligations and rights for everything concerning enlisting to the IDF, national service and taking responsibility for their roles as citizens.”
He was relating to the process he’s been promoting since the establishment of CEC in 2012 which calls for the full integration of Israeli Christian Arabs into Israeli society with an emphasis on service in the IDF. “Our forum has made it its motto to integrate the Christians into the Israeli society, enlist the young people to the IDF in order to protect our home,” he said.
Father Nadaf referred to organizations which attempt to weaken Israel in order to harm it. “If, God forbid, Israel weakens, those extremists around the Middle East will strive to do much worse.”
Nadaf has previously stated that Israel is the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, while their numbers diminish as a result of Muslim persecution in all other areas in the region.
He vowed to continue with all his might his pro-Israel activism, “despite all of the threats and the slander against me. I will continue to work for Israel, for the Christians in Israel and the Christians in the Middle East.”
‘Realizing Ben Gurion’s Vision’
“You, the members of CEC, are realizing Ben Gurion’s vision,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told the attendees, through their “partnership and protection of the country, as well as by breaking the barriers between the Jews and the Christians living together in this country.”
“Thanks to Father Gabriel Nadaf’s actions, many Christian soldiers are fighting shoulder to shoulder with Jewish soldiers and soldiers from other communities” Shaked said.
She declared that Israel “will never abandon” the Christians. “We are with you during the tough times.” She was relating to the incitement, threats and attacks Christian soldiers often encounter when they return to their villages in IDF uniform.
Shaked has asked the State attorney’s office to take every incitement incident seriously.
One of Nadaf’s sons was physically attacked by his opponents in 2013 and hospitalized.
Nadaf himself was targeted by the Greek Church for his actions. He was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church Council for expressing his belief that Christian youth in Israel should fully integrate into Israeli society, serving in the IDF or in the National Service program.
By: Max Gelber, United with Israel
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