Please, Please Read “Blood Brothers” by Elias Chacour

Elias Chacour
Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel
rev. ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013.
Available at Amazon.com

The book Blood Brothers written by Elias Chacour, Archbishop of the Melkite Church in Israel, is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Chacour gives us a side of the story that is rarely heard, the side of Palestinians, told from the perspective of a Christian leader in the Melkite Church. It recounts the persecution experienced by Palestinian Christians in the Galilee and maps Chacour’s quest for reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians in Israel. The book is about how Jews and Arabs are, in fact, blood brothers and should treat each other accordingly. But let me digress for a moment!

Today I had the pleasure to taking my eldest daughter to visit the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Melbourne. It was a truly confronting, disturbing, and moving experience. We went to a cafe afterwards to talk about it and it was interesting to hear the thoughts and feelings of a thirteen year old girl about the testimony to suffering and the senseless of evil that she had just encountered. The Jews have suffered, at the hands of Christians no less, and their blood cries out to be remembered.

The establishment of a Jewish state in 1948 – thanks in many ways to the Battle of Beersheba won by Aussie forces in 1917 – is a good thing for the Jewish people with the creation of national homeland for the flood of Jewish refugees after the war. The west is right to support Israel when it faces external threat from nation states and from terrorism, and Israel is one of a few truly democratic nations in the middle east. We should be a friend of Israel.

However, we should never forget the plight of the Palestinians in Israel, who have experienced their own exploitation and pogroms from Israelis forces, Zionist groups, and even from Arabs. Many Palestinians dwell in refugee camps that are virtual prisons and exist under a system of apartheid with no hope of improving their condition. Indeed, I once met an Israelis army officer who told me that he believed in a Palestinian State, “It is called Jordan,” he said! Yes, I know the situation is complex with the threat of Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel has done things “for” the Palestinians, its not black and white, I get that. Still, Christians should not blindly support the Israelis State in all its policies irrespective of the plight of the Palestinians and we should show particular concern for Palestinian Christians who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you are interested in reading about the whole story in Palestine, especially about Palestinian Christians in Israel, about their suffering and their hopes, you must read this book. In reading this book you’ll discover that Palestinian Christians, through dispossession and disinheritance, are living out the story 1 Kings 21, about Ahab taking Naboth’s vineyard. This is not an anti-Israel book, it is not anti-semitic in the slightest way, it is about peace between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Listen to the words of Lynn Hybels in her foreword:

It means that we wholeheartedly support Israel’s existence as a place where Jews and live in freedom and security. We could not listen to the deep and legitimate fears of Israeli Jews, nor walk slowly through the halls of the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, without being horrified by what the Jews have experienced, We long with them for the day when they can live in peace and security. Followers of Jesus ought to be outspoken in their support of the right of Israeli civilians to live without being subjected to rocket fire and suicide attacks. But we also wholeheartedly support equal freedom, security, and dignity for Palestinians. We cannot listen to their stories of loss, displacement and ongoing oppressing without longing for the day when their children can live with the same access to education, jobs, housing and mobility that we cherish for all children.

This books tells the story of how a Christian village in Galilee, Biram, was destroyed by the Israelis Army.  It describes in details the mistreatment of Palestinians at the hands of both the Israelis occupying forces and by neighboring Arab nations. It describes Elias Chacour’s journey into ministry, his time in Europe, his ministry in several places, his various works for reconciliation and in rebuilding Palestinian villages.

Chacour also gives a charming story about the late David Flusser, Professor at the Hebrew University, where Flusser once said to Chacour that: “God intended for the land of Israel to be a blessing for all nations – all people. Not just a few.”

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands once presented Chacour with a bunch of roses one for each year of the Palestinian’s exile.

Me, personally, I believe that all of God’s promises to Israel were fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus (see Acts 13:32-33). But even if one believers that God still promised the land of Palestine to the Jewish people, we should note how Israel is required to act towards foreigners in the land, “maintain justice and do what is right” says Isa 56:1 and they should raise a “banner for the nations” according to Isa 11:12.

Chacour’s challenge for readers is “get up, to go forward, to do something, to take the risk and to make a difference … for justice and peace”.

I also love Chacour’s plea to his Jewish and Palestinian friends in the book:

I ask my Jewish brothers and sisters: Do you need to produce more millions of victims from among your own people to convince the world that others have hated you? The world knows – and you must know – it was belief that God Himself had created ‘a single pure race’ that blinded Hitler with power and fueled his hatred and arrogance and sense of ‘divine right.’ Are you listening, O Israel, as the voices of all the dead cry out. ‘Cain, Cain, what have you done with your brother His blood cries out for vengeance.’ And you, Ahab, King of Israel: ‘What have you done in the vineyard of Naboth the Palestinian? You killed him and you think you will inherit his land? “No?” says the Lord God.’

I ask my own Palestinian people: Do we need to produce more victims, more martyrs and more humiliation in order for the world to wake up and see the truth? Yes, we know the evil is not in our resistance but in the ongoing occupation of more and more of our homelands. We know the stone-throwing and opposition are not the cause of the occupation; rather, the occupation fuels the resistance. But must we create more martyrs for the world  to know?

Let be beg that every dispensationalist church leader in America to take the time to read this book and to share its message with their congregations. It is a message that churches of the west, often uncritical in their support for Israel, desperately need to hear so that they can recover a biblical message of justice for the nations who live in Israel!

  • William Barto

    Thank you for the recommendation, Michael. I added it to my Kindle after reading your post!

    That being said, I think that some of your assumptions concerning American perspectives may not be wholly accurate. You wrote, “Let [m]e beg that every dispensationalist church leader in America to take the time to read this book and to share its message with their congregations. It is a message that churches of the west, often uncritical in their support for Israel, desperately need to hear so that they can recover a biblical message of justice for the nations who live in Israel!” I know that this is a popular trope in the world media, but as an American who is very aware of religious issues in the culture, I am unaware of these “dispensationalist church leaders” to whom you (and others) refer. I am sure that they exist, but they do not enjoy large audiences in the media, and their supposed influence may be a construction of the largely progressive (and anti-Israel) American media. For example, when you go to the website of the Southern Baptist Convention and search for Israel, one of the first documents that appears in your results is Tom Schreiner’s piece from SBT in 1983 concerning the church as the new Israel and the future of ethic Israel in Paul, not exactly a polemic. Do you have any particular examples that support your assumptions?

    Thanks again for your writings, your post and your blog. They are fantastic.

  • Audrey Porksen

    Blood Brothers was published in 1984. For up to date information on the work of Archbishop Elias Chacour go to http://www.ukashray.wordpress.com. Ashray is the UK charity supporting his reconciliation work through education.


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