Christian Arabs say Israel only country worth fighting for

So, what has Israel’s Muslim Arab Knesset members so upset?

Growing number of Christian Arab youth are joining the Israeli army, openly identifying with the Jewish state.

By Ryan Jones


Arab Christian residents of Nazareth who proudly serve in the Israeli army and encourage their children to do the same are coming under increasing attack, and Israel is starting to take notice and come to their aid.

Elinor Joseph, was born 1991 into a Christian family from the Arab village of Jish, is the first Arab woman ever to serve in a combat role in the I.D.F.

Elinor Joseph, was born 1991 into a Christian family from the Arab village of Jish, is the first Arab woman ever to serve in a combat role in the I.D.F. – Photo courtesy IDF Spokesperson Office.

For a number of years now, a group of Nazareth Christians who are officers in the Israeli army have been actively recruiting young local Arabs to follow in their footsteps and serve the Jewish state.

Though not an officer himself, one of the main figures in this movement is Greek Orthodox cleric Father Gabriel Nadaf. Late last month, the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Jerusalem, acting on demands from Muslim Arab members of Israel’s Knesset, threatened to fire Nadaf.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Interior Minister Gideon Saar immediately called the priest to convey their support and offer their assistance.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Attorney General’s Office announced that it had opened an investigation into the activities of the Muslim Knesset members who pushed for Nadaf’s dismissal.

Hanin Zoabi Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg

Arab MK Hanin Zoabi – Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg

“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 Likud MK Miri Regev during a Knesset Interior Committee hearing on the matter.

Many Arab politicians vehemently oppose Arab participation in Israeli national service for fear it will legitimize the existence of the Jewish state (which pays their paychecks).

Meanwhile, the pro-Israel Arab Christians of Nazareth are becoming increasingly bold in their stance, and even dared to hold a public gathering late last month to toast the achievements of their new forum whose goal is convincing more young Arabs to join the army, as reported by Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper.

“We chose to hold the conference to demonstrate that nothing will deter us,” forum spokesman Moran Khaloul told the newspaper. “We don’t live in Syria, where Christians are not allowed to speak…or in Iraq, where churches are bombed. We live in a Jewish state, which is democratic and free. As Israeli Christians we see ourselves as part of this state and not as part of those who oppose it.”

Khaloul said that until now, many in the community had been too afraid to speak out, but that was going to change. Many are now even referring to themselves openly as “Israeli Christians.”

Ali, an organizer for the forum, noted that local Arabs see what is happening across the Middle East and realize that Israel is the only place in the region where Christians can feel safe and belong. “That’s why more and more of us are realizing that there is no other country here that is worth fighting for,” he added.

Some went even deeper in their reasoning for joining the army of the Jewish state.

Henry Zahav, a 12th grader who intends to join the IDF gave this moving answer when asked by Ma’ariv why he made that decision: “Ultimately, from a religious point of view, we are one. Jesus was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and his 12 disciples were Jews.”


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  1. John says:

    Christians need to understand that ‘Jesus’ is a watered down version of Judaism for the hundreds of millions who cannot commit to performing the 613 commandments of the God of Israel and who cannot ‘believe’ without an effigy of a man to worship. Israel as the land of the Jews is a ‘light unto the nations’ for which it is hated by those who are seething with jealousy. The detractors have an issue unconnected with the state of Israel but more to do with their own failings.

    • Thomas K says:

      @John: As a Christian I have a slight disagreement with you concerning the person, nature and work of Jesus Christ. But this isn’t about the nature of Christ, it’s about Israel’s place as the ONLY free society in the Middle East, and Christian Arabs’ desire to fight for and if necessary die for their freedom.

      Here is my take on this.

      (1) Some Christian Arabs have realized that the ONLY place in the middle east where Christians can lead a safe life and feel a sense of belonging is in free, democratic Israel.
      (2) Christian Arabs like Elinor Joseph believe that Israel, which share Judeo-Christian values with the United States, is worth fighting for and if necessary dying for.
      (3) In America, we also believe – like these Christian Arabs – that freedom is worth fighting and dying for.
      (4) The Orthodox Church has no qualms about serving in the military, in fact we ask God for the VICTORY of our armed forces as part of the Liturgical Prayers during Divine Liturgy.
      (5) Fr. Gabriel Nadaf is apparently encouraging Christian Arabs to join their country’s army (IDF) to fight for their freedom, just as citizens of the United States join the United States military to fight for our freedom here in the USA.
      (6) Muslim Arabs and others do not like this, so they pressure the Greek Patriarchate to “do something” about Fr. Nadaf.
      (7) The Greek Patriarchate caves into Muslim and other politically-correct pressures by disciplining and threatening to fire (defrock?) Fr. Nadaf.

      It seems to me that – in the absence of other information – that any Orthodox who supports the Greek Patriarchate in this matter has a broken moral compass.

    • BethesdaDog says:


      That’s an insult to Christians. I’m Jewish, and do not regard Jesus as a “watered down” version of Judaism. I don’t even try to perform 613 commandments, and in fact, I don’t even know what they are. I’m not particularly religious, so you probably don’t even regard me as a Jew. Well, that would come as a surprise to all my ancestors who were Rabbis and were observant. I’m not observant, but I am still a Jew, and a good one at that. I harbor no such view about Jesus or Christians. I welcome their friendship and support and we should extend to them our respect for their observance and beliefs.

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