The IDF has released some numbers on the Christian community: it has reported a significant rise in the number of Christian Arab recruits in the past year. Since June, 84 Christians have volunteered for army service. Normally, the average is 50 per year.
“The last recruitment cycle is the largest observed in recent years,” an army source told The Jerusalem Post. “The contribution of minorities who voluntarily enlist is very important to the IDF’s capabilities,” he added.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, Christian Arabs residing in Israel are now attempting to further distance their identity from Israel’s larger Arab society which is 90% Muslim. A new political party called B’nei Brit Hahadasha, which translates as “Sons of the New Testament,” has become one of the more vocal platforms representing Christian Arab interests in Israel. According to the Facebook page for the party, the main goals of B’nei Brit Hahadasha are to “encourage full integration of Christian Arabs into Israel society, the two-state solution, and enlistment of Arab Christians in the Israel Defense Forces.”
140 Christian Arabs currently serve in the military, with an additional 400 in the reserves. Earlier this week, 90 Christian enlisted and reserve soldiers attended a conference in Nazareth, held by the Forum for Enlisting Christians. The Forum, led by Father Gabriel Nadaf, has been subject to threats from more radical elements in the Arab community.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a video greeting to the conference, in which he said, “I salute you, and support you.” He promised to stand by the threatened soldiers. The IDF credits the Forum with doubling the number of Christians serving in the Israeli military.