A new nonprofit organization founded thanks to the initiative of a Christian believer is hoping to encourage more indigenous Israeli Christians to enlist in the Israeli army or the national service.
The organization, Brotherly Covenant: Christians Proudly Integrating, aims to encourage Christian youth, mostly Arab and Aramean, growing up in Israel to serve in the IDF, border police and national service and to fully integrate into all aspects of Israeli society.
The NGO was established by Carmelin Ashkar, a Christian believer and mother of an Israeli soldier and a son who graduated from the national service program. Among the other founders and leaders are Christians and Jews and, for the first time, a Christian volunteer who will operate in East Jerusalem where interest in military service is on the rise among the youth.
Military service in Israel is mandatory for men and women after graduating high school. Some may, in place of the military, do “national service” comprised of volunteer work in a nationally recognized charity. However, many non-Jews opt out of army and national service altogether.
In recent years another organization, Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, led by priest Gabriel Naddaf, encouraged military service among Arab youth. But this NGO ceased its activities in June.
“In the last few years I’ve worked among Christian youth to encourage them to enlist in the IDF and national service,” Ashkar said. “I did this, as well with other volunteers, in the past months as volunteer work and we noticed that it is profitable to formally establish a nonprofit, registered organization.”
They received guidance from other Israeli organizations on how to open a non-profit.
“There are those who opened the door and started this historic journey of recruitment and integration of Christian youth five years ago and I am happy that Christians are walking in this path,” she said.
“We are in the midst of a historical change in the approach of the Christian community, but there is still a long course to run.” Ashkar said. “The non-profit organization will contribute a lot for building bridges between Jews and Arabs in Israel and around the world to demonstrate the true and beautiful face of the State of Israel.”
In very apropos timing, the organization received its official certification as an Israeli nonprofit on Nov. 30 — just a few weeks before Christmas and the New Year.
“We will be working diligently for the sake of Israel and the Christian community,” Ashkar said.
Ashkar and her husband Faraj Ashkar are long-time members of River of God, a Lebanese congregation in Nahariya.