A Christian priest who has been active in promoting Arab enlistment in national
service programs has come under heavy fire from the Arab press and Arab members
of Knesset, who have called on him to halt his activities or face dismissal from
In response, Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Greek
Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, has come under pressure from several government
officials to not discipline the priest, Father Gabriel Nadaf of
Nadaf took part last week in a conference on the issue of Arab
enlistment along with IDF officers. Following the conference and coverage of it
in the Arab media, several Arab MKs demanded that Theophilos discipline
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, MK Basel Ghattas
(Balad) said that he had personally written to Theophilos demanding that the
patriach fire the priest if he does not desist from promoting IDF service among
the Arab population.
“We are against his initiative,” said Ghattas who is
Christian. “As a religious man he should be concerned with the affairs and
issues of his church and he should not be politically active in this way and
seek to get Arab Christians to volunteer for the Israeli army.
activity is against the public will and desire of the Christian population. We
are Christians and part of the Palestinian people.”
On Monday, Yisrael
Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said he had called on Religious Services
Minister Naftali Bennett to convey to Theophilos that firing Nadaf would be
“Such an action against someone who’s only ‘sin’ is to try
and help the people of his community better integrate into Israeli society, is
not acceptable and represents an utterly anti-Israeli standpoint, which is
injurious to Israeli sovereignty,” Liberman wrote on his Facebook
Liberman added that he was calling on Bennett to clarify to the
Greek Orthodox Church that future “anti- Israel activities will lead to the
taking of steps and injury to the cooperation between the State of Israel with
the Jerusalem Patriarchate.”
Sar-Shalom Jerbi – director of the National
Civilian Service program, an alternative to military service – also called on
Theophilos not to act against Nadaf.
Jerbi said on Monday that he had met
with Theophilos several months ago to discuss Nadaf’s activities in promoting
national service, saying that the patriarch promised at the time that Nadaf
would not be fired.
Jerbi said he was astonished that Theophilos was even
considering firing Nadaf.
“I am calling on Patriarch Theophilos to
prevent the dismissal of Father Nadaf,” said Jerbi.
“As someone who works
towards coexistence between the different communities and religions in the State
of Israel, I expect the patriarch to stand by his word and allow Christians who
are so interested to be part of the national service program and to feel like
citizens with equal rights in the State of Israel.”
The Post has learned
that Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben Dahan is in touch with the
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who has responsibility for Christian communities
in Israel, to coordinate a meeting with Theophilos on the matter.
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