Book Review: Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in
For me, and many other seminary students in my generation, the reading of Elie Wiesel’s Night, first published in English in 1960, was a sort of moral and ethical rite of passage. We need to know about evil. We need to know about the real, full expression of evil in our world: the Holocaust. Because of his life, witness and writings Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Now I wonder if a whole generation of students, like me, would have a deeper, a more sophisticated and larger understanding of morality, ethics and history if we had read Elias Chacour’s Blood Brothers along side of Night. These two books, Night and Blood Brothers, belong together and should be well read side by side.
Since my study tour of
Israel and Palestine,
I have been intellectually distraught by a stunning and simple question: Why
did I not learn what happened to the Palestinian people after World War II? I
am disturbed by the answer which I am beginning to discern. In our culture,
what I learn, what I read, my worldview and the contours of my deepest
convictions and moral commitments may be, in important ways, controlled and
imposed on me. How is what I learn and believe decided?
I have a stunning photograph from
The photograph itself shows a beautiful, grassy, green hillside behind a secure
fence; it is the story that is stunning. In Israel it is a piece of land set
aside as a “forest preserve”, it is now an idyllic place with beautiful trees.
It is the location of a Palestinian village which was taken by the Israeli’s in
1948 and all of the Palestinian residents were forced to leave. Now there is no
sign of the Palestinian village; the village has been eliminated, destroyed and
plowed into the ground. A village has been transformed into a forest preserve.
Elias Chacour tells the story of his family who were living in one of the small, Palestinian villages when the land was given to the Israelis by the great powers after World War II. Why did I never learn this history from the viewpoint of the people who had lived in these villages for generations? Chacour writes:
was first partitioned in what the United Nations called a “compromise”. Our
elders and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians throughout the land were
shocked beyond words, for the terms of the “compromise” were brutal. Palestine
The Zionists were given possession of the majority of
– 54 percent – even though the owned only 7 percent of the land! In five major
areas that were being handed over, well over half the people – up to 70 and 80,
even 99 percent – were Palestinians. The “compromise” gave the Zionists almost
all the fertile land, including the huge, main citrus groves that accounted for
most of our people’s export income. Palestine
How had such a sweeping and one-sided decision been reached? Among the nations of the world, the United Nations vote was accepted without question or protest.”
The United Nations decisions allowing the creation of the state of
Israel on Palestinian land was more
than fifty years ago. I did not know the reality on this history until I
snapped that nice photograph of an Israeli forest preserve. I have not listened
to or understood the pleading voices of Palestinian Christians. Elias Chacour
is an important voice; can I hear? My deeper, soul-searching questions involve
the ways and reasons why I have been taught that these people and their stories
should not be heard.
“Pray for the peace of
Jerusalem.” Psalm 122: 6