The Thing Not Considered
With this summer's escalation of hatred, violence, and death in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I finally cracked my paperback copy of Blood Brothers by Father Elias Chacour (with David Hazard). An Arab Palestinian Christian who is also a citizen of Israel, Chacour is renown for his restless peacemaking among and between Palestinians and Jews in the Holy Land. He insists on non-violence all the while demonstrating concrete love for one's enemy all the while pursuing dignity and a just reconciliation for all.
In January 2014, Chacour retired as an Archbishop in the Melkite Catholic Church. In the early 1980s, while serving as a parish priest in Galilee, he had a vision for an inter-ethnic, inter-religious school. Thirty years on, the Mar Elias Educational Institutions bring together children and youth from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Druze backgrounds.
What follows is a kind of journal where I engage the book Blood Brothers and Chacour's story.
September 11, 2014
"It probes those ever-murky areas of conscience and heart."
Here, David Hazard, the author who helped Chacour bring his story to print, gives an introductory description of Blood Brothers. It is designed to arrest our attention, to draw us in, to get us in its grip. Naturally.
But I could not help but think that many well-intentioned readers, especially at this initial stage (before the provocative narrative of Chacour), would do well to simply put the book down.
That is, unless we are honestly willing to allow ourselves—to give our conscience, our heart—the true freedom to navigate this excruciating moral/spiritual/emotional/political murkiness. It is a murkiness, of course, strewn tragically about the landscape of the Holy Land and its peoples.
So, for those already so damn certain they know exactly where they're going, this book is really not for you. It would be better to not travel this road.
In truth, I found it hard not to appreciate or to learn from Hazard's humility as he set out along the road, marked as it is by pothole after devastating pothole. In the early 1980s, after picking up a magazine featuring an article on Chacour's peacemaking work in Israel, he admits that "something was interfering with his sympathies." He says:
I had never considered that there were also Palestinian Christians who were living the challenging, non-violent alternative taught by Jesus Christ in the midst of the world's most bitter conflict. Why had I not heard of Chacour and his people before?
There is that, of course. The thing not considered.
And there is also this: the effect of Hazard's personal encounter with Chacour, in 1983, which eventually sent him:
...on a search for some truth amid the muddle of violence and recriminations, politics and spiritual claims. And all the while my political opinions and my long-held beliefs about Bible prophecy were stretched further than I imagined possible.
Coming full circle, then.
It strikes me that, despite the historical (and ongoing) accumulation of devastating potholes, "further than I imagined possible" is a place we must visit along this dangerous road. The maxim that suggests "What we don't know can't hurt us" obviously has nothing to do with Israel and Palestine.
Here, for more Blood Brothers journal.