As Israel faces ongoing conflict, one man remains dedicated to creating unity between his fellow Christians and the country’s Jewish citizens.
Shadi Khalloul is the chairman of the Israeli Christian Aramaic Association, a nonprofit seeking to “revitalize” the Aramaic language of Jesus Christ and Israel’s forefathers. In partnership with The Philos Project, an organization that inspires Christians to engage with the Near East, Khalloul has educated over 3,000 students about the language.
As The Daily Wire reported in 2018, the Aramean Christian sees it as his “life mission” to preserve his people’s culture and to help them establish “coexistence” with Jewish Israelis by living as “positive citizens of the state.”
In addition to preserving his heritage, educating others about Aramaic also serves as an effective strategy for strengthening Jewish and Christian relations.
“Aramaic is common for both of us,” the ICAA chairman said.
“This is something that can strengthen Israel as a Jewish state and show the world that we Israelis are building and preserving [the Aramaean community] as the only country for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”
In a separate interview with The Western Journal, Khalloul said that another way his organization seeks to strengthen ties between Israeli Jews and Christians is by encouraging the latter to join the Israel Defense Forces.
Khalloul believes that Christians voluntarily enlisting in the IDF and serving alongside Jews to protect Israel will inspire Christian loyalty toward the country and help them “integrate” into its culture.
But if he expects his fellow Christians to take on the duty of safeguarding the Jewish state, the ICAA chairman noted that he also has a responsibility to defend his people from threats and propaganda.
Earlier this month, violence broke out between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police forces at the Temple Mount, with protesters throwing stones at the officers and barricading themselves inside the holy site. The clashes continued throughout the week, resulting in Hamas militants firing thousands of rockets directly into Israel.
In the aftermath of the Temple Mount incident, Khalloul sought to spread awareness about a case concerning an Israeli Christian police officer named Elias after a wanted poster of the man was posted online.
On May 9, the ICAA chairman tweeted his support for the officer, promising that his organization “will defend him legally from those terrorists.”
Wanted? Pls support Elias case! An Israeli Christian policeman who serves on the Temple Mount has been threatened for his service & is being wanted on social media from popular Israeli Muslim- Arab accounts.We will defend him legally from those terrorists. @rwnicholson_ @mcbelz pic.twitter.com/DepDzxQLi8
— Shadi khalloul שאדי ח’לול (@shadikhalloul) May 9, 2021
Khalloul later clarified in a May 13 statement to The Western Journal that Elias’ “extremist” Muslim neighbors in Sakhnin promoted the falsehood that the officer had attacked Muslims during the unrest — even though he was not present when the violence occurred. The lie was then picked up by Arab media and seen by millions of people, according to Khalloul.
“They only take the Christian and attack the Christian because they know that his family will not attack them back. They know that he has no backup from a bigger family, wider family,” the ICAA chairman said.
“So they took him, you know, as a weak people. They take us as weak people and allow themselves to attack us and threaten our lives.”
While Khalloul admitted that he feared the incident would discourage other Christians from serving in Israel’s military, he reiterated ICAA’s intentions to defend the man.
But he also called on Christians throughout the world to support Elias’ defense, citing concerns about the “costly process.”
“So many Christian organizations in the West, they find that this is important for them. And I know it is important for them because they love Israel.”
“And if you love Israel, you need to love also the people who are part of this country and loving Israel as well as Christian minority like us and within organizations calling to love Israel like us and uniting the most people together.”
CORRECTION, May 19, 2021: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that “Jews and a few Muslim communities are required to serve in the Israeli army.” In fact, though two groups of non-Jewish citizens are required to serve, they are not “Muslim communities.” The Druze, an Arab-speaking ethnoreligious group, do not identify as Muslims, while the Circassians are an ethic group of whom the majority are Muslim. We apologize to our readers for the error.
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