Controversial Israeli priest honored in Israeli Independence Day ceremony
A Greek Orthodox priest who is currently facing allegations of sexually harassing young people became a torch lighter for the 68th Independence Day of Israel, a very prestigious honor in the country. The celebration occurred this Wednesday, May 11.
Father Gabriel Naddaf, 43, was chosen because of his efforts in promoting the enlistment of Arabs into the army. He heads an initiative that aims to forcefully integrate Israeli-Christian Arabs into the Israeli Defense Force. This initiative, which started in 2012, is being frowned upon by the Christian Arab community who only make up around 2 percent of the Israeli population.
The decision made by the Israeli government to include Naddaf as one of the torch lighters caused some contention among the Israeli-Christian Arab community because besides the fact that they were against his plans for Arab enlistment, the Greek Orthodox priest is also being accused of sexually harassing young people. Reports have claimed that Naddaf demanded sexual favors from children in exchange for helping them.
In an interview with a local TV station, Naddaf denied these allegations. He said that the accusations were only “intentions to harm me personally and to also harm the lighting of the torch,” given the timing of the media reports.
Naddaf remains adamant that he much deserved to be one of the 14 torch lighters during the Wednesday ceremonies.
“I will light the torch with great pride for the glory of the state of Israel and for the good of the Christians in Israel,” Naddaf previously told the Associated Press on the sidelines of rehearsals for the Independence Day ceremony.
The choice of torch lighters was decided upon by the Israeli Culture Ministry. The theme of the recent ceremonial torch lighting ceremony was “civil heroism.”