(JNS.org) Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is encouraging Arab-Israeli Christian youths to join the Israel Defense Forces and integrate into society.
“I salute your willingness to integrate into the society,” Danon told a gathering of draft-age Christians in the Golan Heights, Inter Press Service reported.
“The State of Israel is opening its doors to you. We want you ‘equal amongst equals,’” he added.
Danon’s remarks come as many Arab-Israeli Christians are expressing greater interest in IDF enlistment, breaking a decades-long taboo among Israel’s Arab community. Leading the charge is the Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Nadaf and Bishara Shylan, a Christian shipbuilder from Nazareth who has formed a new Christian political party to promote their own identity and values.
“Jews call us ‘Arabs.’ For Muslims, we’re ‘Christians,’ not Arabs. We’re Israeli Christians, nothing short of that,” Shlayan told Inter Press Service.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, approximately 158,000 Christians live in Israel, 80 percent of which are Israeli Arabs. Over the last year, Christian enlistment in the IDF has tripled from 35 to 100, with another 500 Christians performing national service, according to the IDF.