In previous tours I’ve been privileged to hear Abuna (Father) Elias Chacour speak to my groups. Now that he has been appointed Archbishop of the Melkite Church, he doesn’t have as much time to greet groups as he did in years past. If we don’t have an audience with him, we will certainly meet others in the community of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEII) who can speak about the joys and challenges of bringing quality education to the Palestinian community in Israel. If the term “Melkite” is puzzling to you, look for a future post in which I suggest ways you might familiarize yourself with the various Christian communities in the Holy Land. The MEII website provides this brief biography of Abuna Chacour:
“Elias Chacour was born November 29, 1939 in the village of Biram in Upper Galilee in Arab Palestine to a Palestinian Christian family, members of the Melkite Catholic Church, an Eastern Byzantine Church in communion with Rome.
At the age of eight years, he experienced the tragedy of his people. He was evicted, along with his whole village, by the Israeli authorities and became a deportee and a refugee in his own country, the Palestine of his birth. Because he remained in the country of his forefathers, he was granted citizenship of Israel when the state of Israel was created in 1948.
Father Elias Chacour came to Ibillin as a young priest in 1965. He quickly saw the lack of educational opportunities for Palestinian youth beyond the 8th grade. A vision of a school for all the children of Israel began to take shape in his mind. Today, this vision has become a reality in the village of Ibillin, Galilee.
In the early 1980s, on an empty hillside now known as the Mount of Light, a classroom building was begun. The newly formed high school moved from temporary quarters in the community center to the new building as soon as it was ready. The original High School has expended considerably, and the history and background speaks of the expansion on the Mount of Light.
Father Chacour has become an ambassador for non-violence and someone, who not only preaches, but lives the Sermon on the Mount. He travels very often between the Middle East and other countries around the world. In addition, hundreds of groups of visitors, fact-finding missions, and pilgrims have visited and continue to visit with him in Ibillin. He has received many International peace awards and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions. On March 10th, 1994 , Father Elias Chacour received the prestigious World Methodist Peace Award that has been presented in the past to such pilgrims for peace as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the late Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat. On Feb 19th, 2001, Abuna was announced to be the recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize.
Abuna (Arabic for Father, the affectionate and respectful term given to their priests) is the author of two “best selling” books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land.”
I am recommending that all tour participants read Blood Brothers. Whet your appetite by reading the first 95 pages (CLICK HERE for the pdf file), and then order the book from your local bookstore or online. Amazon.ca or Amazon.com