Many Aramean Christians Are Fighting for Israel and Reclaiming a Hidden Heritage

Aramean Christians

Christians across the Middle East are fleeing Muslim murder and persecution. But one country provides a safe haven and freedom for Christians and that’s Israel.

For generations, indigenous Arabic-speaking Christians have been considered a tiny minority within the larger Muslim Arab minority in Israel and Muslim majority in the Middle East.

But now many of them are breaking away from that identity, fighting in the Israeli Defense Forces for the Jewish state and reclaiming a hidden heritage.

Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf is leading the way. He lives and ministers in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth.

An Arimean Heritage

Two-thousand years ago, Nazareth was the boyhood home of Jesus. Today it’s the largest Christian city in Israel.

But Nadaf, who founded the Christian Israeli Forum, is so controversial that the Greek Orthodox Church threatened to defrock him and Israeli police must protect him with a personal alarm that he can wear on his wrist like a watch round the clock. But he is not deterred.

“Despite all the threats and the incitement against me, I will not turn back from my way,” Nadaf told CBN’s Scott Ross.

Nadaf’s son was violently attacked in December 2013 before he joined the IDF. He joined anyway.

“I am continuing with my faith and my way, the way of integration. Or I’ll die or there will be more of this way. If I won’t die, I’ll continue to the end,” Nadaf said.

Nadaf’s offense: saying he’s not an Arab, reclaiming his Aramean heritage and encouraging young Christians to integrate into Israeli society, especially by serving in the IDF.

“We want to protect the state that’s protecting us,” Nadaf said.

Most Christians in the Middle East come from a Catholic or a number of Orthodox traditions. Most of them speak Arabic — the language of their countries — but many say that doesn’t make them Arabs.

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Scott Ross and Julie Stahl

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