Last week, at the Christian Empowerment Council’s annual conference, chaired by Father Gabriel Naddaf in Nazareth Ilit, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said, “You, the members of CEC, are realizing Ben Gorion’s vision in your partnership in protecting the country as well as breaking the barriers between Jews and Christians living together in this country.”
“Thanks to Father Gabriel Naddaf’s actions,” Shaked continued, “many Christian soldiers from cities and villages are fighting shoulder to shoulder with Jewish soldiers and soldiers from other groups for the protection of Israel.”
“We will never abandon you,” Shaked promised. “We are with you during the tough times.” Regarding the incitement, threats and attacks Christian soldiers suffer when they return home in uniform, the Justice Minister said she instructed the State attorney’s office to deal seriously with every such case.
The Christian Empowerment Council – Israeli Christians’ Recruitment Forum was created to fully integrate Israeli Christians into the society at large, professionally and culturally. The Council strives to absorb Christian affiliation into Israel by showing Israeli Christians that their own religious, historic and ethnic identity is tied exclusively with Jewish history and culture.
“We encourage the Israeli Christian community to warmly accept the opportunity of a safe and prosperous life in the State of Israel, and to stand up as proud Israelis, to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and prosper in a vibrant Israeli society,” states the group’s website.
The conference was attended by about 300, Nazareth Ilit Mayor Ronen Palot, Coasta Rica’s Ambassador in Israel Istiban Parod and his wife, Safwan Marih from the Friendship Foundation, and vice president and acting head of the Zionist Federation Yacov Hajwal. Participants included IDF officers and soldiers, Border Guard officers, Police officers, National Service volunteers, heads of Jewish and Arab municipalities, Christian, Muslim, Bedouin and Druze sheikhs and priests, and Friendship Foundation representatives Nelly and Moysh Levi.
Father Gabriel Naddaf told the conference, “We and the Jews are the native roots of Israel. We need to be citizens with equal obligations and rights for everything concerning enlisting to the IDF, national service and taking responsibility for our roles as citizens.”
He added, “Our forum has made it its motto to integrate the Christians into Israeli society, and enlist the young people to the IDF in order to protect our home. If God forbid Israel is weakened, those extremists around the Middle East will strive to do much worse.”
He vowed to continue his life’s work “despite all the threats and slander against me. I will continue to work for Israel, for the Christians in Israel and the Christians in the Middle East.”
Mayor Palut said, “It takes a lot of courage to do what you did Father Naddaf. All of the people of Israel need to do something simple, to stand up and salute you and empower you.”