Guest / Limited Access /
Israel's Arab Christians and Jews: Brothers in Arms?
Image: Ariel Schalit / AP

You wouldn't expect Palestinian Christian leaders to embrace a movement that enlists Christian Arabs in Israel's military. And you'd be right.

"Our people struggle with our country for statehood," Boutros Mansour, general director of the Nazareth Baptist School, told Christianity Today. "I oppose it, and I think about 80 percent of Arab Christians oppose it."

But the new movement, started by a Greek Orthodox priest and a Galilee sea captain, is meeting with some moderate success. In 2013, approximately 100 Arab Christians enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces, triple the number from 2012.

"We plan to integrate Christians into Israeli society and state institutions—to serve the country and do their part," said cofounder Gabriel Nadaf, a Nazareth-based priest, at a recent recruitment forum. "This country protects us, and it deserves to have our contribution to its defense and prosperity."

Last year's expiration of a law that exempted most of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews from mandatory military service was one of the Jewish state's hottest debates. But Israel has for a long time wanted to enlist more Arabs in its military beyond the "incredibly small fraction" of current conscripts, says Noah Haiduc-Dale, a Mideast history scholar at Centenary College in New Jersey.

Bishara Shilyan, the other founder of the movement, is concerned the status quo has led to a loss of Christian identity in the Holy Land. He points to Nazareth, where Christians had recently been the majority but now make up only 30 percent of the population.

"We are emigrating out of our historic places," he recently told the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom. Israelis ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssuePep Talks for Successful Living
Subscriber Access Only Pep Talks for Successful Living
Yes, but don’t we need something more from our churches?
RecommendedThey Will Know We Are Christians by Our Drinks
They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Drinks
In the Muslim world, Christians have a complicated relationship with alcohol.
TrendingRussia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.
Editor's PickThe Three Myths of Cohabitation
The Three Myths of Cohabitation
Sociologist Bradford Wilcox reports the surprising results of his new international study on cohabitation and its impact on kids.
Christianity Today
Israel's Arab Christians and Jews: Brothers in Arms?
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.