Christian enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has nearly tripled in the past year, going from 35 to 100, with another 500 Christians doing national service, according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s office.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth and spiritual leader of a forum for the enlistment of Christian youth in the IDF, Naji Abid, leader of the Orthodox council in Yafia and Lt. (ret.) Shadi Khaloul, head of the forum.
According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 158,000 Christians live in Israel, 80 percent of which are Israeli Arabs. Father Nadaf has come under fire from some Israeli-Arab leaders due to his support for young Christians enlisting in the IDF.
At the meeting, Netanyahu announced the creation of a joint government-community forum to encourage Christian enlistment and help their integration into the state.
“Members of the Christian community must be allowed to enlist in the IDF. You are loyal citizens who want to defend the state and I salute you and support you. We will not tolerate threats against you and we will act to enforce the law with a heavy hand against those who persecute you. I will not tolerate attempts to crumble the state from within. The State of Israel and the Prime Minister stand alongside you,” Netanyahu said in a statement during the meeting.