‘Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the LORD your God.’ (Leviticus 24:22)
Greek Orthodox Bishop Gabriel Nadaf encourages his congregants to integrate into Israeli society. He and his community prefer to call themselves “Arabic-speaking Christian Israelis” rather than Christian Arabs. He supports those who join the IDF or perform national service. In a region where the World Council of Churches and Middle East Council of Churches condemn Israeli oppression of Palestinians, he is a rare friend.
He has faced blackmail and even death-threats for his views. Arab Knesset members, including the Knesset’s only Greek Orthodox Arab member, Basel Ghattas (Balad) have called for his removal from his position as priest in Yafia, near Nazareth. He has been banned from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
On Wednesday, MK Miri Regev (Likud) formally denounced Balad MKs Ghattas and Hanin Zoabi for demanding Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III either stop Nadal from supporting Christian Arab enlistment or fire the bishop. “It’s unacceptable that Arab MKs should think that they can be Trojan horses in the Knesset and send letters of incitement against a Christian priest who encourages young Christians to enlist in the IDF,” she said.
Police representatives announced earlier this week that an investigation into the MKs for incitement has been started by the Attorney General several months ago. The Attorney General’s office clarified, however, that while an investigation regarding harassment of the bishop was being conducted, the MKs were not included in it. Speaking at a hearing in the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, MK Regev said, “The time has come for Arab MKs to understand that they cannot incite against IDF conscripts.”
Shaadi Halul, the spokesman for the Forum of Christian IDF Officers, also spoke during the hearing. He noted the various activities against the forum, and the involvement of the MKs in those activities. “This is terrorism in every way. Today they are threatening us, and tomorrow they will threaten Jews,” said Halul.
Nadaf is one of three spiritual leaders recruited by the forum to support Christian recruits. All three received threats, and one retracted his support in their wake. Approximately 100 Christians enlist each year according to Pini Ganon, head of the Defense Ministry department for Christians and Beduin.
Nadaf and his followers strive for the sort of status enjoyed by the Druze and Circassian communities, as respected non-Jewish equals in the Jewish state. As the bible instructs, repeatedly, there is one law for the convert and the resident. It is time for Israel to protect its friends.