Stand for Israel has long admired Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Christian pastor in Israel whose organization The Fellowship funds, who speaks up for the freedoms afforded Israeli Christians and the safety that Israel provides, and whose own son has joined the IDF to serve the Holy Land and its people. Now Father Gabriel has written this piece on Christians in Israel and the new path of partnership they have taken:
We, sons of the Christian community in Israel, have decided to get off the fence we straddled for decades. We are no longer victims of the turbulent reality like a leaf in the wind, but warriors who shape their surroundings with power; no longer accepting the blurring of identity and falling into the trap of double loyalty, but rather demanding a clear, distinct identity arrived at by choice.
The passive and submissive approach, dragged along by Arab nationalism and foreign interests, has been replaced by a profound and forthright desire to be part of Israeli society and to integrate into it as citizens with equal rights and obligations, fortunate to live in an enlightened democratic state. We wish to say out loud, and ensure that it should be clearly heard as part of the variety of voices which make up the rich tapestry of Israeli society …
Today, after the radicalization which has washed over the Christian community in Israel, it is now a time for truth and introspection; a time for work and activism, the time to say our piece. We see what is happening in the Arab states around us. We see the intolerable suffering of the Christians in these states: the persecutions, the ethnic cleansing and the daily murders of Christians just for being Christian.
These harsh historical events are a resounding wakeup call for us. The silent majority of the Christian community which never expressed itself, especially our youth, understand today that they must become active partners in the state which protects them and grants them freedom in a democratic society. Partnership means contribution and giving.
From here the process began, the desire grew among the youth and the vast majority of Christian families to give expression to the freedom of opinion and conscience, which are the foundations of a democratic society …
As is the way with all revolutions, the present one among the Christian community is not an easy one. It is encountering resistance from a number of quarters. But profound changes don’t happen in a day, or a year. We are aware of the difficulties but determined to press on, to fight for the integration of members of the Christian community into Israeli society and state institutions, to serve in it and do our part – not just with words but with deeds.
Thus, in 2012 the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum was established by Major Ihab Shelian, who has served in the IDF for many years. A man of outstanding character, a role model for our youth and an infinite source of pride for us. That year, when the process had just begun, the number of those enlisting in the IDF was just 35. In 2013, that number tripled to 120 young boys and girls; this in spite of incessant threats and incitement.
I personally, as a spiritual father of the Christian community, am constantly threatened. My threat status is “threat level 4.” But my faith and that of all those in the Christian community following in this new path, is stronger than any threat. We believe that the State of Israel is our heart. The State of Israel is sacred to us. We believe in its strength and its path. We also believe in the brave alliance of brotherhood between Jews and Christians in Israeli society. This alliance is stronger than any other force.