Born Into It

Photo: Haaretz.

The ruins of Biram, an Arab Christian village in Galilee destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces in 1953. In 1948, the residents—including Elias Chacour—were expelled, taking refuge in a neighboring village.


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 22, 2014

In discussing the biblical story of the Hebrew Exodus from enslavement in Egypt, Christian theologian Christopher J.H. Wright says, "We all live within social frameworks that we did not create." Most of us, hopefully, understand this reality notwithstanding our attempts to come to terms with it in our actual lives.

One of the applications for Wright's observation, then, is that we can never see ourselves as some sort of linear product of our own independent choices. This view surely does not mean that we are allowed an escape route or an evasion strategy when it comes to personal responsibility. But, it does set personal responsibility within the larger, wider context of "social frameworks" which are often beyond our control.

Additionally, it should create a bit of empathy for others and, if we let empathy have its way, compassion.


Chacour writes:

There had been trouble in the mid-1930s, before my birth. Father told us there had been opposition to the British who had driven out the Turks and now protected us under a temporary Mandate. Strikes and riots had shaken Jerusalem, Haifa and all of Palestine, but these were quickly quelled. Then things settled, so it appeared, into a lull.
Soon, it was hoped, the British would establish a free Palestinian government, as they had promised. Without a single radio or newspaper in all Biram, we had no inkling that a master plan was already afoot, or that powerful forces in Jerusalem, in continental Europe, in Britain and America were sealing the fate of our small village and all Palestinian people.


In telling his story, Chacour gives voice to what Wright means by "social frameworks that we did not create." Writing in 1984, you can also sense that, for Chacour, Palestinian dispossession in 1948 (and all the political intrigue that preceded it before Chacour's birth in 1939) has ushered in a lifetime of attempting to come to terms, of helping his people to come to terms.

Despite growing up in conservative evangelical America, I could not beat back the human demands of empathy and compassion for Palestinians.


Here, for more Blood Brothers journal.

...the great gears of history sometimes grind up the lives of innocent people.
— James A. Baker III
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