A growing number of Arabic-speaking youth are volunteering to serve in the Israeli army. And that has meant an increase in intimidation and threats from those in the Arab community who oppose coexistence within the Jewish state.
At the annual holiday gathering hosted by the Christian Empowerment Council (CEC) last week, Israel Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked vowed to do everything in her power to protect Israel’s Christian soldiers.
“You [Arabic-speaking IDF soldiers] are realizing Ben Gurion’s vision by partnering with us in protecting this country, as well as in breaking down barriers between Jews and Christians,” said Shaked.
Shaked thanked Father Gabriel Naddaf, spiritual head of the CEC, for his unwavering efforts to integrate Christians into Israeli society. Because of those efforts, she noted, “many Christians soldiers fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Jewish soldiers.”
Shaked concluded by telling the Christians: “We will never abandon you. We are with you during the tough times.”
In his address to the gathering, Father Naddaf repeated his position that Jews and Christians are brothers, and must take equal responsibility in defending and developing Israel.
“We and the Jews are the native roots of Israel. We need to be citizens with equal obligations and rights in everything ,” said the priest. “Our forum has made it its mission to integrate Christians into Israeli society by enlisting the young people in the IDF in order to protect our home.”
The conference was attended by hundreds of young Christian soldiers, senior army and police officers, heads of Jewish and Arab municipalities, and a number of high-ranking government officials, like Shaked.
Also in attendance were a number of Bedouin and Druze sheikhs, who similarly encourage their youth to serve Israel by joining the IDF.