The Israeli Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus and the World Jewish Congress on Wednesday jointly hosted the eight annual Night to Honor Israel's Christian Allies.
After various Israeli politicians and Christian leaders spoke about the shared roots and shared destiny of Christians and the Jewish people, the organizers got to the meat of the evening, the honoring of two Christians who have done much to advance Jewish-Christian relations in recent years.
One of those Christians is a known quantity. Jane Hansen Hoyt has, through her international ministry Aglow, done much not only to support Israel, but also to advance women's rights around the world.
The other honoree is an anomaly. Just over a year-and-a-half ago, a previously unknown Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth began to publicly call on fellow Arabic-speaking Christians to join the Israeli army and fully integrate with Israel's Jewish society.
Father Gabriel Nadaf has been slandered and threatened much for his troubles, but very rapidly, the anomaly he represents has become a movement.
The nation of Israel today, thanks to the efforts of Father Nadaf and others in this movement, is very much aware of not only the Christian ally that exists out there in the world, but the one that lives right here in the Land of Israel, as well.
Nadaf told the gathering that the budding relationship between local Christians and their Jewish countrymen is "a cause of great pride for me," but noted that much more needs to be done.
"I am here to open the eyes of the community," Nadaf stated. "It is up to us to say ‚Äòenough.‚Äô The Christian community wants to integrate into Israeli society and opposes the stances of its leadership, which is not interested in doing so."
But the Israeli government representatives said there is also much that needs to be done on their end to fully bring local Christians into the fold.
"It is about time that we accept you as partners in everything," Member of Knesset David Rotem told Nadaf. "We [the Jews] are more your brothers than anyone in Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt."
Rotem was alluding to another campaign being led by Nadaf and his associates to have the Israeli government recognize them as a minority separate from the Arab Muslims. Many, Nadaf included, argue that local Christians are not truly Arabs, even if they do speak the language. Christians, they point out, have been in the land since long before the Arab Muslim conquest.
Shai Hermesh, a former Knesset member and current head of the Israeli branch of the World Jewish Congress, further encouraged Nadaf, insisting that "you are with us, but more importantly, we are with you [the Christians]."
Member of Knesset Gila Gamliel, who co-chairs the Christian Allies Caucus with MK Rotem, told Nadaf, "For us, you are an Israeli hero!"