Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Christians Serving In the IDF: A Growing Community
Today, as people around the world celebrate Christmas, Christian soldiers serving in the IDF are off duty and at home with their families for the holiday. The growing community of Christian IDF soldiers recently gathered for a special forum to recognize their contribution to the State of Israel.
Nearly 90 Christian soldiers came together in the city of Nazareth Illit at the beginning of the week, from all over the country and from all IDF units. This meeting was organized by the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, an organization founded in Nazareth Illit a little over a year ago. Since its founding, the number of Christian soldiers in the IDF has doubled. According to the forum’s data, 84 Christian soldiers have enlisted since June 2013 alone. In previous years, that would be the amount of Christian soldiers to draft in an entire year and a half.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed and thanked these outstanding soldiers in a special video message. “The purpose of this forum is clear: to engage Christians who serve in the IDF,” he said. “The importance of your actions goes without saying. I was pleased to hear that over the course of the past year, there has been a significant increase in the number of soldiers. I salute and support all of you.”
“I know that the mission is not always easy,” he added. “But we will be with you along the way. All of Israel is proud and thanks you.”
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest and president of the Forum, addressed the soldiers as well. “As a Christian spiritual teacher living in the Middle East, I understand that human rights are not something to be taken for granted. For that, I thank the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he said. “I believe in cooperation between Jews and Christians and our shared fate in a Jewish country. I believe that we can contribute to Israel and I call on all Christians to join the army and help us to protect this country.”
The founder of the forum, Major Ihab Shelian, who serves in the Israel Navy, was overwhelmed to see so many soldiers of the faith gathered together in one place for the first time, a crowd which included high-ranking officers as well. Certificates of appreciation were presented to all the soldiers.
One of the soldiers who received an award was Lieutenant Tanus Eid, the first Christian to be an officer of the Ordnance Corps. Lt. Eid sat down with us to talk about his experience.
IDF: What is your role in the army?
Lt. Eid: I prepare the IDF’s military gear such as weapons and tanks. I also oversee weapon repairs.
IDF: Why did you decide to volunteer in the IDF?
Lt. Eid: It was a matter of ideology. Israel is my country. I was born and grew up here. I get the same rights as everyone else, so why not serve in the army like everyone else? I benefit from this country so I have to contribute as well.
IDF: If you could do it again, would you change anything?
Lt. Eid: There is no doubt that I would have joined the army, but perhaps in a different position. At first I wanted to get into the Border Police but after discussing it with my parents, I decided to serve in the Ordnance Corps.
IDF: How will you be celebrating Christmas?
Lt. Eid: The army gives us a holiday so we can spend Christmas with family. I’ll be with my friends and family to ring in a good year.The IDF wishes all our Christian soldiers a Merry Christmas.