The National Zionist Congress for Youth convened last week to discuss the phenomenon of emigration from the Land of Israel. On what turned out to be a fascinating panel were Mia Morano, widow of IDF special forces officer Emanuel Moreno who was killed in the Second Lebanon War, Israeli priest Father Gabriel Naddaf and IDF Major Elias Karam, the first Arab Christian to join the naval officers’ school.
Naddaf opened the panel by recalling that he was born in Nazareth when the population was predominantly Christian with a Muslim minority. “Today it is the opposite,” he lamented, noting that Christians should find in Israel a natural home. “Christianity came from Judaism,” Naddaf stated. “Without Judaism, Christianity doesn’t exist.”
But in the rest of the Middle East, the situation is much different.
“During the ‘Arab Spring’ we saw the collapse of governments lead to the Muslim slaughter of Christians. And they still call them ‘brothers,’” said Naddaf. “I can not dress like this in my priestly garments in Iran or Saudi Arabia.”
Father Naddaf went on to address his own son’s recent enlistment in the IDF, which he encouraged: “I sent my son to serve in the Israeli army. The IDF is the most moral army in the world. We don’t arbitrarily kill people.”
As spiritual leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum that actively encourages all young Arabic-speaking Christians to join the IDF, Father Naddaf explained that he “understands that it is essential to connect Christian Arabs to Israel and the Jews.”
But the Israeli Arab leadership, he said, “has fooled us into living a lie. They call Israel an apartheid state, but when anyone suggests an exchange of territories, [these leaders] protest because they know life is better in Israel.”
Mia Moreno told the youth about her return to Jewish faith and being raised in the Sinai when it was still under Israeli control. “The Jewish faith does not require everyone to be the same,” she noted. “I sit here beside Father Naddaf, he a Christian priest and me a religious Jewish woman, and we can and must live in peace with one another.”
Major Elias Karam told the youth gathering that as an Arabic-speaking Christian he is proud to wear the uniform of the IDF. “I volunteered for the army. I could have been a doctor or a lawyer, but I chose a different path,” said Maj. Karam. “In doing so, I stayed true to my dream.”
Congress organizer Jacob Haguel of the World Zionist Organization said the event, co-sponsored by the Zionist Council in Israel, sought to “bring together the leaders of the next generation. This congress represents the beautiful mosaic that is Israel including…Druze and Jews, religious and secular, periphery and center.”
PHOTO: From left-to-right – Maj. Elias Karam, Mia Moreno and Father Gabriel Naddaf.