More Arab Christians Serving in Israel Defense Forces

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- More Arab Christians than ever are joining the Israel Defense Forces, the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz reported over the weekend.

In the second half of 2013, 84 recruits signed up, more than three times the average to date. It's a trend that's expected to increase.

Though the IDF does not release exact numbers, an estimated 300 Arab Christians are currently serving in the military, 157 in the conscript army.

But there's no shortage of Arab political movements opposed to the trend and they've promised to fight it on every level, Ha'aretz reported.

Last week, when Father Gabriel Nadaf with the Greek Orthodox Church held a meeting in the Arab village of Shfaram in the Galilee, some people who object to his work came to the door and told everyone to leave.

The meeting disbanded to avoid a confrontation.

In 2012, Nadaf created a forum to encourage Arab Christians to serve in the IDF. Near the end of last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited him to a meeting attended by several other ministers to thank him for his efforts.

But Nadaf's efforts have come with a price. Last December, CBN News reported on a brutal attack by Arabs in Nazareth on Nadaf's 17-year-old son. Nazareth has the largest Christian Arab population in Israel.

For many Israeli Arabs, especially in the Christian community, the Jewish state is their home and they're glad for the opportunity to serve in the IDF.

One naval officer, Maj. Elias Karam, told Ha'aretz he's "in favor of joining [the IDF] and encourages others to do so."

"I think it contributes a great deal and opens many horizons," Karam said. "The desire of a person to join the army and integrate more and more into the State must be respected."

Karam's three brothers are also serving in the IDF and the Border Police.

Many of the enlistees want to serve in combat units and are also interested in the training offered by the IDF that will help shape their career path.

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