"We have a joint fate in this land [Israel], because whatever happens to the Jews here will happen to us." - Father Gabriel Naddaf.

Significant Christian developments in Israel

Shadi Khalloul speaking in the Maronite church of the Arameans in Northern Israel

Shadi Khalloul speaking in the Maronite church of the Arameans in Northern Israel

Wildolive was privileged in 2016 to meet two men from different denominations and backgrounds, but who are making very significant changes to the religious boundaries in Israel. Both are quitly spoken, godly men, who are standing bravely for the truth that Christians are rooted in Israel and should be supporting the state that is their home and their protector. This is in stark contrast to a prevailing trend for Christians in Israel to join with the Muslims in preaching a message of victimhood to Israeli occupation and opression. That message is the one picked up by Christians outside Israel as Christian Palestinianism

Breaking free from old identities

An article by Susan Warner for Gatestone Institute - www.gatestoneinstitute.org - used with permission and slightly rearranged for wildolive

Background

Typically, and for reasons that can only be speculated on -- the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominational streams have aligned themselves with the Palestinian-Arab and Muslim politico-religious agendas. Similarly, some Protestant denominations, which have aligned themselves with Palestinian Arabs, have joined the chorus against Israel. that seem less religious than politically motivated. Christian "Palestinianism," for example, is a manipulative and erroneous theology linking Jesus with the Palestinian Arab political cause.

It is not too surprising that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has jumped on this bandwagon citing the "Palestinian Jesus" narrative as a rallying cry for its cause, but submitting to a radical Islamic replacement theology would negate archaeology and history, as well as Christianity.

Many theologians, both Jewish and Christian, identify Israel as the center of God's world -- the "apple of God's eye," it says in Zechariah 2:8. But there are many Christians for whom the Bible is less an "authoritative" historical document and more a book of poetry or inspiration. There are also those Christian groups (some say a majority) who follow "replacement theologies," which have written off Israel altogether. This widespread but erroneous version of Christianity transfers the covenant promises God made with Israel to the Christian Church.

In a similar vein, a common Muslim narrative says that Islam replaces both Christianity and Judaism. There are many in the Muslim world intent on rewriting the history of the Middle East; they have vowed to blot out the name of Israel and the Jews altogether.

1 Father Naddaf: Beacon of Light to the Christians of Israel

Chapter one of this story began when Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth, started to speak up for the idea that it was time for Christians to embrace their homeland, Israel, and their Jewish roots.

"Christian Arabs are hostages." - Father Gabriel Naddaf.

"We have a joint fate in this land [Israel], because whatever happens to the Jews here will happen to us." - Father Gabriel Naddaf.

"On what authority does President Abbas claim that Jesus was a Palestinian? The Bible says that He was born in the Jewish city of Bethlehem to Jewish parents from the city of Nazareth and was circumcised on the 8th day as a Jew and presented to the Jewish Temple by His parents according to the Mosaic law." - Father Gabriel Naddaf.

Father Naddaf has been providing leadership to unite Christians and Jews; a rapidly increasing number of Christians see him as offering them the opportunity to envision and build a tremendous future.

When Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth, Israel, launched his campaign to convince Israeli Christians to enlist in the Israel Defense Force (IDF), he unwittingly ignited a firestorm between opposing forces within and around Israel's Christian and Muslim communities.

His decision, born of his love and respect for his native land -- combined with his acknowledgement of Judaism and Israel as the cradle of Christianity -- perhaps has set the stage for a long overdue reunification in Israel between contemporary Christians and Jews.

In the short term, Father Naddaf's decision has polarized the Christian community, a large part of which has aligned itself with the Arab-Palestinian narrative -- a narrative engineered by forces behind Yasser Arafat in the 1960s -- and designed to obliterate Israel as a Jewish nation.

In the long term, however, Father Naddaf's decision could facilitate an opportunity for Christians to focus on the value of Israel as its most important friend and partner. Naddaf's journey has the potential to model the way in which Israeli Christians relate to each other, to their homeland and to their Jewish neighbors.

Perhaps by announcing his support of Israel and by boldly acknowledging Christianity's roots in Judaism, Naddaf took one small step towards decoupling contemporary Israeli Christians from their current misplaced identity of themselves as "Arabs," as "Palestinians," and as a kind of fifth column within Israel.

As a Times of Israel article by Mitch Ginsburg asserts:

"Naddaf wants to carve out a new identity and a separate community. He believes that in the coming years he can rally 50,000 Arabic-speaking Christians in Israel to align themselves with the Jewish people and with Israel. The first order of business on the path toward that new identity, he said, was 'breaking the fear' that has gripped the community. He likened the Arabic-speaking Christians in Israel, the minority of the minority, to the Jews of the Diaspora: good grades, pretty good jobs, few troubles. 'Christian Arabs are hostages,' he said, adding, 'the only time they feel free to identify as Christians is when they are castigating me.'

How Christians in the region began to identify as Arabs is a complex puzzle; Christian history from 30 CE until the Siege of Jerusalem in 637 CE was not Arabic at all, but rather Jewish and Roman.

Early Christian anti-Semitism, evidenced as early as the second century CE, certainly played a large part in separating Christians from their Jewish roots. Another wedge was the seventh century invasion of the region by Arab Islamic armies, which turned the region into an Islamic colonialist stronghold where Christians lived largely as dhimmis (second class, "tolerated" citizens) who had to follow a humiliating set of laws and buy protection) until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1916 and the end of World War I.

Father Gabriel Naddaf is now at the forefront of what one side sees as a hopeful unity movement and what others loudly decry as a political plot to fragment the Arab-Palestinian political cause.

Chapter one of this story began when Father Gabriel Naddaf, then a newly appointed priest of Greek Orthodox Church, started to speak up for the idea that it was time for Christians to embrace their homeland, Israel, and their Jewish roots. At the time, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Iranaeus, rejected the idea as too controversial.

Mitch Ginsberg's article points out how unique and extraordinary is Naddaf's decision:

"An Arabic-speaking Christian clergyman, Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest, has done the unthinkable: He has issued a call for Christian Arab citizens of Israel to reassess their Arab identity and to consider themselves indigenous Christians, of Greek and Aramaic origin, inextricably linked to the Jewish people and the Old Testament, and to fortify that bond by serving in the Israeli army."

 

Susan Warner is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of Gatestone Institute and co-founder of a Christian group, Olive Tree Ministries in Wilmington, DE, USA. She has been writing and teaching about Israel and the Middle East for over 15 years. Contact her at israelolivetree@yahoo.com.

Insert "new Moves leaders" picture once permission is granted

2 - Shadi Khalloul

Aramean Christians

2007 saw the launch of the remake of an identity. It started when a member of the Maronite Christian Church from the Northern Israeli town of Jish (Gush Halav), IDF Captain (res.) Shadi Khalloul met with soon-to-be member of Knesset (MK) Yariv Levin. Out of that meeting came a new term from an ancient saga -- Arameans. It also became a cause of interest for Levin, who, when elected MK in 2009, began to advocate on behalf of Israeli-Arameans.

Arameans, considered by historians a lost civilization, are of Semitic origin. The Aramaic language -- a language similar to Hebrew -- was a common trade language throughout a large swath of the Middle East during the Second Temple period. Jesus and his Apostles spoke the Aramaic language, which, at least until recently, was still spoken in towns throughout Syria -- long after its ethnic origins had disappeared.

The term "Aramean" has not yet caught on with the news media which continues to call the Christians in the Middle East "Christian Arabs" -- a confusing term, in part because "Christians" from many different streams of Christianity, and "Muslim Arabs" have been thrown into the same convenient pot.

Shadi Khalloul writes - www.gatestoneinstitute.org used with permission

Christians in Israel, as well as all other minorities, understand today that serving in the Israeli military is essential. Many Christians and other minorities in Israel share the same fears: they understand that in this region, Israel is the only island of safety that allows them freedom and democratic rights.

Christians and other minorities in Israel prosper and grow, while in other countries in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority, they suffer heavily from the Islamic movement and persecution -- until forced to disappear.

Contrary to propaganda, there is no "Apartheid" of any kind in Israel, and no roads on which only Jews may travel.

In Israel, members of the Christian and Muslim minorities fill all types of high positions -- just as any Jewish Israeli who wishes to have a successful career. There is the Maronite Christian Supreme Court Judge, Salim Jubran.

Widely discussed in the region is how the Europeans secretly want Israel wiped out, too, and are hoping that their new laws, combined with old Arab violence, will do the trick.

Last year, Israel recognized the existence of a group of Christians -- "Arameans" -- within its borders; an act that no Arab or Muslim nation from the Middle East has ever done or would ever do. Israel recognized a distinct religious and ethnic group: the indigenous people of the ancient Fertile Crescent.

Their language, Aramaic, was a language spoken by Jesus centuries before Islam came to the region.

Israel not only supports and gives Christians and other minorities -- Druze, Muslims, Baha'i, everyone -- full civil rights, freedom and legal rights to exist peacefully and practice their faith as they wish, but also to develop themselves as a minority with all the implications of differences in culture. Arabs, for instance, are welcomed into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), but are not, as opposed to Jews, required to serve. Israel's founding Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, humanely did not want Arabs to feel as if they were obliged fight their "brothers."

In Israel, members of the Christian and Muslim minorities fill all types of high positions -- just as any Jewish Israeli who wishes to have a successful career. There is the Maronite Christian Supreme Court Judge, Salim Jubran.

Contrary to propaganda, there is no "Apartheid" of any kind, and no roads on which only Jews may travel. Those roads are in Saudi Arabia, which has real Apartheid roads, since only Muslims may travel to Mecca.

Israel does this, moreover, in a neighborhood where most of its neighbors -- often the most brutal enemies of humanity -- wish Israel were wiped out and often do their utmost to make this wish come true. Sadly, many Europeans join in. Everyone has seen the recent vicious attempts by the European Union to snuff out Israel economically by labelling goods made in disputed territories. This requirement, made of no other country with a disputed border actually hinders any prospects for peace that working together is meant to bring about.

These Europeans are not fooling anyone. Their slyly sadistic, self-righteous "punishments" meant for Israel will only throw thousands of Palestinians out of well-paying, badly-needed work; these diktats also drive many newly out-of-work Palestinians to the employment bureau of last resort: Islamic extremism and terrorism. Ironically, these Europeans, to satisfy their wish to hurt Jews by pretending to help Palestinians, are actually seeding a new crop of terrorists who will later come to Europe and show them what they think of such hypocrites.

Widely discussed in the region is how the Europeans secretly want Israel wiped out, too, and are hoping that their new laws, combined with old Arab violence, will do the trick. That way, the Europeans can pretend to themselves that they had "nothing to do with it." These Europeans need to know they are not fooling anyone.

Israel, meanwhile, despite having to deal with the European and American fronts as well as often genocidal Muslim threats, continues actively to strengthen its minority communities through a variety of state-sponsored programs. Among them is a five-year plan to develop Israeli Arab and other minority communities adopted by the government on December 30, 2015, at cost of 15 billion shekels [roughly $4 billion]. Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, of the Likud Party is in charge of implementing the plan. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is unjustly demonized, has for the last several years operated the "Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors." It is headed by an Arab Muslim, Aiman Saif, who controls a sizeable budget of 7 billion shekels [roughly $1.8 billion], which has mostly gone to different Arab cities and villages to develop modern infrastructure, industrial zones, employment opportunities, education and other elements. The rest was allocated to helping Christian villages in the Galilee.

Arabs have their own section in the Ministry of Education, headed by an Arab Muslim, Abdalla Khateeb, who is also in charge of a sizeable budget of 900 million shekels [$230 million].

Christians, as well as all other minorities, understand today that serving in the Israeli military is essential for their integration in Israel. Many Christians and other minorities in Israel share the same fears: they increasingly understand that in this region, Israel is the only island of safety that allows them freedom and democratic rights. The Muslim Arab community in Israel, as well as the Christian and other Arabic-speaking communities, see the tragic destiny of their brothers in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab countries. Muslims killing Muslims; fanatical Muslim groups killing Christians, uprooting them, slitting their throats, burning them alive, drowning them in cages and of course crucifying them, even little children. Israel's minorities are very aware of this. They also cannot understand why no one is demonizing those villains. They fear that this devastation will spread, first to the holy land of Israel, and then to Europe.

This fear is one of the reasons there have been increasing numbers of Christians applying to serve in the IDF: 30% recruitment on a voluntary basis; while in general Jewish society, the number stands for 57% on an obligatory basis. Today there are even more than 1000 Muslim Arabs serving in the IDF.

We all know the danger of these fanatic Islamic jihadist groups such as Hamas groups, and feel ever more committed to protect this lone pluralistic state.

The community to which this author belongs, Aramean Christians, is of Aramean-Phoenician ethnic roots and language, and was originally based in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Over the 1400 years following the Islamic conquest, Aramean Christians were forced to switch to speaking Arabic, and more recently to flee their homes in Syria and Iraq. They have no status in Arab and Islamic states, most ruled according to Islamic sharia law. Aramean Christians also have no status in the Palestinian Authority, which now rules Judea and Samaria.

We are aware of some Christian groups, such as Sabeel, Kairos Palestine and others under the thumb of the Palestinian Authority, who still feel the need to pay lip-service to the Muslim Arabian lords who have conquered them.

Jerusalem is open to everyone. But it has not always been, especially under the jurisdiction of Jordan, until 1967. Not only were Jews not allowed in, but 38,000 Jewish gravestones were taken from the Mount of Olives cemetery and used as building materials and flooring for Jordan's latrines.

Muslim Arab members of Israel's Knesset [parliament] reject the right of Christians to preserve their unique heritage. On February 5, 2014, Knesset member Haneen Zoabi of the United Arab List party threatened the Israeli Christian representatives who lobbied in the Knesset Employment Committee in favor of a law that would add Christian representatives to a committee on employment equality in the Economy Ministry. Zoabi rejected their declaration that they were a separate Aramean Christian ethnicity. She insisted on forcing upon them an Arab and Palestinian identity. This identification was of course, as false as if we Christians had insisted that Muslim Arabs call themselves Native Americans. The law passed despite the efforts of Zoabi and her colleagues, due to a coalition of Knesset members -- with vast majority of Jewish MKs voting in favor of it.

This incident illustrates how some of Israel's Muslim Arabs, while asking their Jewish neighbors for help in preserve their own Muslim-Arab heritage, prohibit other ethnic minorities these same rights.

Instead, they try to impose Arabization and Palestinization by threats and by force. In September 2014, for instance, an Aramean Christian woman, IDF Captain Areen Shaabi, was stalked by Arab Muslim activists in Nazareth. She was threatened with shouts of "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is Greater!"], and at night her car tires were slashed.

IDF Major Ehab Shlayan, an Aramean Christian in Nazareth and the founder of the Christian Recruitment Forum, awoke on the morning of August 2015 to find that a Palestinian flag had been put in front of his door during the night. On Christmas Eve, December 24, 2014, thirty Muslims throwing stones and glass bottles attacked a Christian soldier, 19-year-old Majd Rawashdi, and his home.

IDF Major Ehab Shlayan (far left), is an Aramean Christian from Nazareth and founder of the Christian Recruitment Forum, which encourages Israeli Aramean Christians to serve in the military. Muslim Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoabi recently threatened Israeli Christian representatives, rejecting their declaration that they were a separate Aramean Christian ethnicity and insisting on forcing upon them an Arab and Palestinian identity.

All this is hypocrisy at the highest levels, mixed with racism.

In an official Christmas greeting to Israel's Christians on December 24, 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"Israel's minorities, including over one million citizens who are Arabs, always have full civil rights. Israel's government will never tolerate discrimination against women. Israel's Christian population will always be free to practice their faith. This is the only place in the Middle East where Christians are fully free to practice their faith. They don't have to fear; they don't have to flee. At a time when Christians are under siege in so many places, in so many lands in the Middle East, I am proud that in Israel Christians are free to practice their faith, and that there is a thriving Christian community in Israel."

Christians and other minorities in Israel prosper and grow, while in other countries in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority, they suffer heavily from the Islamic movement and persecution -- until forced to disappear.

Shadi Khalloul, is founder of the Israeli Aramaic Movement. Prior to graduating from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he served as a lieutenant in the IDF paratrooper division. He is also an entrepreneur, a community leader and a candidate for Israel's parliament.

wildolive conclusion

Listening to Shadi speaking in his church, one can not help being struck by his passion for the truth that his people belong in Israel and are identifying with and supporting Israel. (serving in the IDF)

His reasoning is most encouraging - he sees clearly that they, as Christians within Israel, are protected from the horrors that are befalling the Christians just across the borders in Syria and Iraq. He states very clearly that his community wishes to stand with Israel rather than join the chorus of Christians seeking to bring Israel down. He makes the point very clearly that Israel is the front line in the battle in which radical Islam seeks to destroy Israel and then the rest of the western world. He pleads earnestly for the church to take seriously the plight of Christians suffering under radical Islam

 

Posted 30/05/14

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