Members of the Greek Orthodox clergy and altar servers 370.
(photo credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
MK Miri Regev denounced on Wednesday Arab MKs who have campaigned for the
dismissal of a Greek-Orthodox priest for backing IDF enlistment in the Christian
community, during a hearing in the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment
Last week, Balad MKs Basel Ghattas and Haneen Zoabi wrote to
Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem Theophilus III, demanding
that Father Gabriel Nadaf either halt his activities supporting Christian Arab
enlistment or be fired by the patriarch from his position as a serving priest in
his congregation in Yafia, near Nazareth.
Nadaf told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that he had met with Theophilus earlier this week, and that he
would be remaining in his post as head of the Yafia church where he officiates.
The priest said that due to the sensitivity of the issue, he could not divulge
further information about the meeting.
Nadaf is, however, still banned
from entering the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, an important Christian
shrine, and has been for several months.
Despite an announcement by the
police in the committee that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein had opened an
investigation into the MKs, Weinstein denied that any such probe had been
Weinstein said that, to date, the only investigation that was
opened was a police investigation which was opened half-a year ago, and that the
police investigation was only against unspecified elements that had threatened
violence against the priest.
Speaking during the committee hearing, Regev
said that “the time has come for Arab MKs to understand that they cannot incite
against IDF conscripts.”
“It’s unacceptable that Arab MKs should think
that they can be Trojan horses in the Knesset and send letters of incitement
against a Christian priest who encourages young Christians to enlist in the
IDF,” said Regev.
Last week, Ghattas acknowledged that he had personally
written to Theophilus demanding that the patriach fire the priest if he does not
desist from promoting IDF service among the Arab population.
Halul, the spokesman for the Forum of Christian IDF Officers, said during the
hearing that threats against his organization constituted terrorism and that
Arab MKs such as Ghattas and Zoabi were heavily involved in activities against
“This is terrorism in every way. Today they are threatening
us, and tomorrow they will threaten Jews,” said Halul.
The forum of
officers recruited three spiritual leaders to help their campaign, including
Nadaf, all of whom received threats against their activities and one of whom
stopped participating in the events because of the threats.
requested the appointment of a Christian religious leader to assist Christian
recruits in the IDF, police assistance against threats and harassment of their
activities, and state encouragement for Christian youth to
According to Pini Ganon, head of the Defense Ministry department
for Christians and Beduin, approximately 100 Christian youth enlist in the IDF
every year out of a possible 3,000 potential recruits.
Superintendent Revital Karko said during the hearing that eight complaints of
incitement against Christians involved in IDF enlistment activities were being
investigated, although Karko also reiterated the claim that the attorney-general
was investigating Arab MKs for incitement.
Separately, Sar-Shalom Gerbi,
the head of the Civilian Service Directorate, called on the attorney- general to
open an investigation into Balad MK Jamal Zahalka for stating in a public forum
last month that Arab youth who signed up to the civilian service program, a
voluntary alternative to military service, would suffer social
“Anyone who does civilian service should be ashamed,” said
Zahalka in a meeting of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, an
extra-parliamentary organization representing Arab citizens. “A girl should know
that if she does civilian service, there’s a chance she won’t get married and
that she’ll be ostracized. The same thing for a boy.”
Israeli Arabs volunteer for national service programs every year, according to
the National Civil Service Volunteers Association.
Gerbi said that recent
increases in the number of Arab volunteers had caused an increase in opposition
to the program. and that the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee frequently
denounces civilian service volunteers and has established a special committee to
campaign against the program. He also said that, along with verbal attacks
against civilian service volunteers, who are referred to as “lepers” and
“traitors,” incidents of physical violence have been recorded as
One civilian service volunteer at the Beit Levenstein
rehabilitation center in Ra’anana, who had been given a citation for excellence,
had the tires of her car punctured when news of her citation was reported in the
media, Gerbi noted.