Christian Arabs Persecuted for Joining IDF

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The 17-year-old son of a Greek Orthodox priest who encourages Christian Arab youth to integrate into Israeli society and join the Israel Defense Forces was brutally beaten in Nazareth over the weekend.

Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus, has the largest Christian Arab population in Israel.

Nazareth-based Father Gabriel Nadaf founded the Forum for Christian Community more than a year ago.  Since then the number of Christian Arabs enlisting in the IDF jumped from 35 to 120, with another 500 opting to volunteer for a non-military National Service program.

Military service is mandatory for Jewish Israelis but Arab Israelis (and other non-Jews) are exempt.  Some non-Jewish communities do serve in the military, but they are often persecuted by their own communities.

Nadaf told CBN News in an earlier interview that looking around at the Middle East, Christians are being persecuted for their faith everywhere except in Israel.  So the time had come for Christian Arabs to contribute their part to the state of Israel.

"We live together and this is the State of Israel, the Holy Land, the Land that is the most important to us, the Land that defends us, that protects us," Nadaf said. "[Israel] deserves that we will contribute our part in her defense."

Nadaf called on the government to deal severely with those that are persecuting the Christian Arabs (among them are other Christian Arabs).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the subject at the weekly cabinet meeting.

"I have heard about the threats of physical attacks by extremist elements in Israeli society against Christians, Christian Arabs who want to enlist in the IDF, who want to be part of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

"We will not tolerate this; I will not tolerate this," Netanyahu said.

"We will use all of our tools to stop these thugs and we will allow whoever - Christian, Muslim and Druze - wants to link their fate even more to the State of Israel and wants to serve in the IDF to do so. We will protect them," he added.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

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