The son of an Israeli Greek Orthodox priest who has been advocating for Christian IDF service was hospitalized after being attacked over the weekend.
The incident occurred around 7 p.m. Friday evening, Gabriel Naddaf, a Yafia clergyman who has faced threats over his support for Christian enlistment, told Army Radio.
A teen active in a communist youth movement in Nazareth approached Naddaf’s son and threatened him. He then started punching Naddaf and beat him with a stick.
The younger Naddaf managed to grab that stick and strike his attacker, according to his father.
‘Thank God the incident didn’t end in tragedy,” his father said. He did not say what condition his son was in.
Naddaf’s son has been the target of harassment since his father became involved in the Forum for Drafting the Christian Community in October 2012.
Naddaf was asked by the forum to serve as a spiritual guide, along with two other clerics. But the other two dropped out following a campaign of intimidation, leaving Naddaf alone at the helm.
According to Naddaf, the attacker has threatened his son for the past year.
“My son very much wants to enlist, in the near future, and serve in a combat unit,” said Naddaf. “He believes in what I do, that we all have a home here, that he also needs to give to the country. The country gives him his rights, and should receive what it is due in return. We all need to live here in peace, and protect the existence of the country that we live in, since our future is here.”
“This is the holy land for Jews and Christians,” Naddaf declared. “And we have to protect it from all harm.”
The priest also said that his son was afraid to leave the house, and that his wife worried about the family’s safety.
“Arab MKs have not issued any condemnation,” said Naddaf, “and I put the responsibility on them. This is the result of incitement that comes from them day and night.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the incident in his remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“I would like to comment on one other thing, which is unusually severe in my opinion,” said Netanyahu. “I have heard about the threats of physical attacks by extremist elements in Israeli society against Christians, Christian Arabs who want to enlist in the IDF, who want to be part of the State of Israel. Against these people is an extremist group that is threatening them. We will not tolerate this; I will not tolerate this. We will use all of our tools to stop these thugs and we will allow whoever – Christian, Muslim and Druze – wants to link their fate even more to the State of Israel and wants to serve in the IDF to do so.”
“We will protect them.”
According to the Israeli daily Maariv, efforts to enlist more Christian Arabs have begun to bear fruit. As of June, over 90 high school graduates had joined the IDF in 2013 , a number that may seem like a drop in the bucket considering the total number of 130,000 Arabic-speaking Christians in Israel but is a threefold increase compared to 2010. Small as it is, the number was sufficient to enrage Arab community leaders and politicians, like Balad MKs Hanin Zoabi and Bassel Ghattas.
Despite the harsh opposition, Arab volunteerism is on the rise, and is not limited to the Christian population. New data released by Israel’s Administration for National-Civic Service indicates a rise of 76% in Arab youth volunteering for civil service since September 2001. In June, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett celebrated the 3,000th Arab volunteer, almost double the number of such volunteers in 2012 (1,700).
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.