Fellow Spotlight: Shadi Khalloul
Philos Project | November 21, 2017
Shadi Khalloul is a fellow of the Philos Project. Shadi is working to build bridges between Christian and Jewish communities in Israel, revive the Aramean identity, heritage, and language, and rebuild the first Christian Aramaic town, Kafr Bir’im, in Northern Israel.
Who is Shadi?
An Aramean Christian Maronite Israeli, Shadi Khalloul is chairman and founder of the Israeli Christian Aramaic Association, and acts as a spokesperson for the Christian Israel Defense Forces Officers Forum. Shadi served as a lieutenant in a paratrooper division of the IDF, and today is a captain in the IDF reserves. He is founder of the first Christian-Jewish youth pre-military preparatory program. Shadi was the first native Christian Aramean candidate for Knesset with the Jewish Zionist party in the 2015 elections. He is an entrepreneur and a community leader working to revive Aramaic-Syriac as a spoken language among Maronites and other Christians in Israel. He is a staunch believer in the importance of nurturing a close relationship between Christian and Jews in Israel. He holds a degree in international business and finance from the University of Las Vegas.
Arameans, a Semitic people originating in northern Israel and the Levant, form some of the most ancient Christian communities in the world. Speaking Syriac-Aramaic, the language Jesus Christ spoke while on earth, they have continuously lived in the region which is now northern Israel and southern Lebanon since the first days of Christianity. Shadi Khalloul helps to preserve the Aramean Christian heritage. He obtained permission from the Israeli government to have Syriac-Aramaic taught in his Galilean village elementary school in Gush Halav, and organizes an Aramaic summer intensive program in his home village, Kfar Bar’am. On September 16, 2014, after seven years of lobbying from Shadi, the Israeli government approved a measure to allow Christians in Israel to register as “Arameans” on their identity cards, instead of being forced to erroneously register as Arabs.
Beyond his work reviving Aramean identity, Shadi works to build bridges between Christians and Jews in Israel. A paratrooper in the IDF, Shadi attributes many of his professional opportunities and relationships to connections he made while serving. He describes service in the IDF as the “melting pot” for Israeli culture, and encourages his fellow Christians to serve. In 2017, Shadi launched the first-ever interfaith pre-military training program. For seven months prior to the beginning of their IDF service, twenty Christians and twenty Jews will train together, and become familiar with their respective religions and heritage. Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attended the program’s launch. Shadi’s next project is to build the first Christian Aramaic town in Galilee. This will promote positive Jewish-Christian relations in Israel and worldwide, and achieve equal rights for his minority Aramean Christian ethnic group.
Why it’s important
In a region surrounded by conflict, Shadi is an agent of hope and coexistence for Christians, Jews and other communities. He works to build bridges of understanding and friendship while preserving ancient Christian heritage in the land of its birth.