Orthodox Palestinian Christians in Israel had a somber funeral instead of a planned celebration on Saturday, which marks the day Jesus was born according to the Orthodox calendar, after a leader in the Orthodox community was killed on Christmas Eve.Gabi Kadis, the leader of the Orthodox Association, a lay organization of Orthodox Christians in Jaffa, was stabbed in the back by a man dressed as Santa Claus after leaving the church from a Christmas Eve service Friday night, according to local sources.
Israeli police say they have arrested six suspects, but no one has yet been charged in the case, and the motive for the stabbing remains unknown.
Tensions between right-wing Jewish extremists in Israel and Palestinian Christians and Muslims have increased in recent weeks, after a series of attacks on mosques and churches by the right-wing Jewish groups. So far, there has been no connection made between Friday’s stabbing and these recent attacks.
Kadis left the Christmas Eve mass at St. George Church, shortly after attending a service at a local mosque condemning the Israeli government’s recent decision to remove the loudspeakers from the mosque following a complaint by a friend of the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s family.
At the assembly at the mosque, Kadis told the crowd “Today it’s mosque loudspeakers, tomorrow it will be church bells” – a reference to the area’s long-standing culture of respect for the three major religions that consider the land to be holy: Christians, Muslims and Jews. In the last sixty years since the state of Israel was created, however, the indigenous Christian and Muslim communities have been increasingly marginalized and forcibly displaced from their traditional holy sites and land.
A funeral for Kadis was held in Jaffa on Saturday afternoon, in lieu of Orthodox Christmas Day celebrations.