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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
A priest’s battle: Christmas in the IDF
By GILAD SHARON
24/12/2013
"Jewish soldiers serve in the armies of Christian countries, and there is no reason why Christian soldiers should not serve in the army of a Jewish country."
 
He is a young priest, a fact even his beard cannot hide. Still, the keen look in his eye and his profound faith make his age irrelevant.

He bears a heavy burden, not unlike Christ in the painting on the wall of his home in Nazareth, who carried the cross on his back. But Father Gabriel Nadaf’s burden is of a different sort: to persuade the Christian population in Israel to enlist in the IDF.

His Muslim neighbors despise him, and even some of his coreligionists disassociate themselves from his loyalty to Israel, out of fear. Father Nadaf’s children are attacked, he himself is the target of death threats, and his car has repeatedly been vandalized. And why? Because a man of God, a citizen of Israel, is calling on the members of his community to display loyalty to their country and integrate into its society.

The Christian Arabs in Israel are a minority within a minority. They live alongside the Muslim Arabs, and are gradually being pushed out. In Nazareth, a predominantly Christian city for generations, they are already in the minority.

Nevertheless, they are better off in Israel than elsewhere in the region. The Christian community in Bethlehem, the birthplace of their savior, has been severely depleted and suffers relentless persecution, and their situation in Gaza, Egypt and Syria is nothing short of catastrophic.

On the whole, the Christians in this part of the world are educated and financially secure. But since they have always been targeted by the Muslims, they have had to seek out ways to protect themselves.

These solutions have not proven successful. Some have turned to communism, which rejects all religions save for the religion of the exploited proletariat fighting its oppressors.

Once you take religion out of the equation, a Christian is equal to his Muslim neighbor. This explains why many of the leading communists in Israel and surrounding countries are Christian. Another solution that has been tried is to adopt a radical stance. Hardliners like George Habash and Azmi Bishara, for example, are uncompromising in their rejection of Israel in an effort demonstrate their loyalty and gain the approval of a hostile environment that victimizes people of their faith.

Anyone with eyes in their head, such as Father Nadaf, can see that there is no place for Christians in the Arab world. The chairman of the Palestinian Authority may have his picture taken at midnight mass in Bethlehem for all the world to see, but there is no greater hypocrisy.

The Christians do not really want him there, and he himself does nothing to end the harassment of the Christians who remain in the city, living on borrowed time.

Father Nadaf is a man of honor, unlike the Arab members of Knesset who curry favor with people like Gaddafi and Assad and wrap themselves in Palestinian flags while enjoying a Zionist salary, Zionist social security, Zionist health care and more.

In contrast, Father Nadaf encourages his community not only to take from the country, but to give to it as well.

Jewish soldiers serve in the armies of Christian countries, and there is no reason why Christian soldiers should not serve in the army of a Jewish country. They are part and parcel of the complex mosaic that is Israel, a small, select group that it is our duty to promote. Father Nadaf chose Israel, and we should embrace him, along with his community.

Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Kitai, skitai@kardis.co.il
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