Priest Involved in Recruiting Arabs to the IDF Investigated for Sex Crimes Against Teens

A gag order was placed on the investigation over a year ago. In lifting the order police did not say whether the evidence gathered against Naddaf was sufficient for an indictment

Gabriel Naddaf in 2014
Gil Eliyahu

The Israel Police has conducted a criminal investigation against a Greek Orthodox priest and turned over the file to the attorney’s office without recommending whether or not he should be indicted for sexually assaulting teenage boys, officials said on Monday.

The investigation against Father Gabriel Naddaf was opened after a news program accused him of the crimes, and also alleged that he had solicited favors while serving as head of the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum.

The police’s Lahav 433 unit, which includes the fraud squad, conducted the investigation in partnership with the Police Investigations Department because a policeman was suspected of being involved in the crimes Naddaf allegedly committed several years ago.

A gag order was placed on the investigation over a year ago. In lifting the order police did not say whether the evidence gathered against Naddaf was sufficient for an indictment.

Naddaf’s work to recruit youths for the army enjoyed broad support among public officials, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many Knesset members. However, members of the Israeli Arab community condemned his work. Naddaf even received threats. He resigned as head of the forum last year, and some people linked his departure with the criminal investigation against him.

The investigative report published two years ago presented correspondences that some Israeli Arab youths had conducted with Naddaf on Facebook. In one of them, Naddaf wrote a youth he was helping with his army placement: “I always liked you. I know what I feel every time I see you in uniform. I don’t know what. It feels strange. Masculinity.”

Another youth, a discharged soldier who had asked Naddaf to help get him recruited by police, said: “[Naddaf] started to talk about sex, started asking me, ‘How is it for you? Strong? Small? Large?’ Then I started to catch on.”

Another young man said, “He [Naddaf] said to me, ‘Come, take me on some sort of hike we’ll meet when you want, whenever you can.’ So I said, ‘Fine, which church or in which office.’ [He answered], ‘No, no. What church, what office? No, let’s go on a hike together, we’ll sit together.’”

In another correspondence presented in the report, Naddaf wrote to his Palestinian associate, Khalil Ganem, that he was prepared to help a trader in ritual objects get an entry visa into Israel in exchange for money.

“I’m prepared to write a personal request for him as the leader of Christians Forum in Israel. I will ask that he come visit us, he just has to take the request. He must give us a contribution – 2,500 shekels ($680).” Ganem then asked, “What’s my cut?” Naddaf replied, “Help yourself – 500.”

Other exchanges also had sexual overtones.