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Looking for Justice Between Blood Brothers

Suddenly I knew that the first step toward reconciling Jew and Palestinian was the restoration of human dignity.

by Elias Chacour with David Hazard

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Editor’s note: In the following excerpt from his book Blood Brothers, Father Elias Chacour returns to his family’s village in Biram soon after his ordination in the Melkite – Greek Catholic Church. When he was a boy there, Jewish soldiers had expelled the native villagers and destroyed their homes. On this return to the ruins of his family’s home in northern Galilee, Father Chacour develops a biblical view of a Palestinian Christian on the creation of Israel and its implications for his people.

“Looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”(Isaiah 5:7)

Something in the yard stopped me. There, firmly rooted and still green with life, grew my special fig tree. I went to it and ran my hand over the rough bark and the grapevine that still trellised up its branches, thick and coarse as rope. This had always been my special hiding place – the spot where Atallah found me on the day Father announced the soldiers were coming.

Amid these vivid memories, Father’s face appeared clearly – a younger face, loving yet stern, as it had been when he had lectured Rudah for bringing a gun home to protect us. The Jews and Palestinians are blood brothers, he had said. We must never forget that.

Now, looking at Father’s specially-grafted fig tree, I knew what those words meant. As a child, I had known that we got on well with the Jewish people from other villages, that we bartered with them and that the men occasionally enjoyed a rousing religious discussion. But with my seminary training, I was suddenly and keenly aware of St. Paul’s declaration to the young churches: God had broken a dividing wall, and there was no longer “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female;” in fact, all had become “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to God’s promise” (Galatians 3:28-29). Further, Paul said, “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel … nor are they all Abraham’s children … It is not only the natural children who are God’s children, but also the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8). We Gentiles had been “grafted in” among God’s chosen people of faith, just as Father had grafted six different kinds of fig trees together to make a delightful new tree. Beneath the rough bark where my hand rested, I knew that the living wood had fused together so perfectly that, should I cut the tree down, I could never see where one variety stopped and the other began.

How terribly sad that men could ignore God’s plan for peace between divided brothers, even supporting one group as it wielded its might to force out the other. Such wrong thinking had divided the early Church, driving Hebrew and Gentile believers apart. I had been surprised at fellow seminarians and professors. They had often become furious in discussions when I had stated that Palestinians also had a God-given right to live in Israel, to sow and reap from the land, and to live as equals, not second-class citizens. Were we not “children of the promise, regarded as Abraham’s offspring?”

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Tags: Middle East Christians Palestine Israel Jews