Over the past several years, two local Arabic-speaking Christians have distinguished themselves as leaders of reconciliation efforts with the Jews around them. However, both men have taken very different paths to reach that goal, and have now turned decidedly non-conciliatory gazes upon one another.
First up is Salim Munayer, founder and director of the reconciliation ministry Musalaha, which is almost exclusively focused on bringing together Christian Arabs and Messianic Jews. As for the rest of Israeli Jewish society, Munayer has traditionally taken a more antagonistic approach, which speaks to what he expects of Messianic Jews interested in reconciliation.
Of note, Munayer has boasted of family ties to George Habash, once described by Time magazine as “Terrorism’s Christian Godfather” and a man responsible for the murder of many Israelis. More recently, Munayer was heard (listen at 43:13) suggesting that Hamas aren’t really terrorists and are just trying to make life better in the Gaza Strip.
Statements like these have often landed Munayer in hot water. Last week he penned a plea that painted criticism of his efforts and behavior as a kind of persecution.
But it would seem our second example of leadership in reconciliation is suffering true persecution for taking a somewhat different approach. Father Gabriel Naddaf, an Orthodox priest from the Nazareth area, has received numerous death threats and endured the brutal beating of his son, all because he encourages fellow Christians to embrace all Israeli Jews and to serve the State of Israel as loyal citizens.
Founder of the Christian Empowerment Council and spiritual father of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, Naddaf has gone so far as to lead a movement to reclaim local Christians’ ancient Aramean identity, an identity with much stronger historical ties of friendship to the Jews.
Late last month Musalaha held a conference at which former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah was invited to rebuke this new Aramean movement and Naddaf’s “collaboration” with Israel. Like Munayer, Sabbah has in the past justified Hamas terrorism and even claimed the Islamist group is protecting Christians from Israel.
Naddaf responded with a strongly-worded post on Facebook in which he vowed that, unlike Musalaha, the Christian Empowerment Council “encourages a positive Christian voice to stand up for Israel and to take a stance against terrorism.”
The Nazareth priest warned that under Musalaha’s veneer of reconciliation “lurks an anti-Israel and pro-terror agenda,” and called for an inquiry into its funding.