IDF soldiers
IDF soldiers Tomer Weinberg

A lawyer who represents soldiers from Nazareth serving in the Israeli Defense Forces has begun to receive death threats from residents of the heavily Christian city in northern Israel. 

With growing debate over the initiative to draft Israeli Christians into the IDF, Nazareth has seen a hotbed of local Arab anti-draft groups. Last April, a large rally against IDF enlistment was held there. 

Many Israeli Christians - most of whom identify as Arab, but with an increasing number seeking to reconnect to their original Aramean roots - are departing from their community's traditional anti-Zionist stance and signing up for national service as Israel has rapidly emerged as the only safe refuge for Christians in the Middle East.

But that movement has triggered a fierce backlash from both Muslim and Christian Arab extremists, including prominent community figures and even MKs from the extremist Joint List party.

Eyal Paltak, 49, told Channel Two that death threats against him had escalated in recent weeks. But most frightening was an image circulated Monday of Paltak in an army uniform with a big red X over his picture, and the words, "death to you soon."

"I'm involved in protecting soldiers who are attacked and threatened on a daily basis by the city's Muslim population, because they are serving in the IDF," Paltak explained. 

"Since being interviewed on the subject, I have received threats to stop. The low point was this morning when the picture was circulated. They also distributed an aerial view of my home" in Mitzpe Gilon. 

Aside the from the publication of that disturbing photo, Paltak has also started to receive threatening messages on Facebook. Consequently, he filed a report with the Israel Police, which decided to also involve the Israel Security Agency.

Northern District Police said an investigation had been launched but would not comment on specific details. A search for suspects is underway, they added. 

In any case, Paltak is not deterred. "None of this will affect my struggle to help Christian IDF soldiers," he declared.

But the incitement will still raise serious concerns. 

Arab extremists embarked on a similar aggressive incitement campaign against Jewish Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick for months before he was critically wounded by a would-be Arab assassin.

Police were accused of inaction over those threats and since then have been keen to show they are taking incidents of online incitement more seriously.