Thursday, June 02, 2005

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, with David Hazard
1984, 2003 Chosen Books 240 pages
Reviewed by Suz

This book was submitted to the Better-Than-Oprah Book Club by Pam, who grew up as an MK in Jordan. She wrote inside the cover, “This book gave me compassion for ‘the other side.’ May it do the same for you.”

As I set out to read this book, I had to confess I didn’t really understand what the two sides in question were, or on which side I fell, whether by choice or by default. About a week later as I read the Epilogue and Afterward and closed the book, one refrain and one question kept running through my head: “I had no idea” and “Why did I never learn about this in high school or college or church?”

Blood Brothers tells the story of Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian from the village of Biram in Galilee. The account begins in 1947, when Elias was just a boy and events decades in the making began to topple the simple and safe world he knew. The narrative follows Elias from childhood to adolescence and through to adulthood; Elias’ story—and indeed his calling to be a peacemaker between Israelis and Palestinians—is so tied up with the land of his birth that the narrative also reveals a very raw and tragic side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—the side about which I knew so very little.

Educated in Paris and with a degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, able to speak 11 languages, Chacour is an internationally sought after speaker and advocate for peace in the Middle East, has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the founder of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, a small complex of six schools and the only campus in Israel that welcomes Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Jews to study side by side, building peace through education and providing hope of a future for the children of Israel. Known simply as “Abuna,” an Arabic term of affection and respect, Father Chacour, a Melkite priest, continues his ministry of peace and reconciliation from the Galilean village of Ibillin.

Engaging and very readable, Chacour’s autobiography is every bit as educational as it is moving. It gives a glimpse into why the conflict in the Middle East is so intense, examines what Bible prophecy has to say about rights to the land, and gives a voice to our Palestinian brothers and sisters—a voice that is so seldom heard here in the U.S.

In the afterward to the 2003 edition, David Hazard writes about his experience in a Gazan refugee camp:

A seventeen-year-old girl trembling with grief and rage told how she witnessed her teenage cousin being shot through the head by Israeli soldiers. They had been walking to school together… She accused me and all Americans of knowing about these daily abuses against Palestinians but not caring, and even supporting the conservative Israeli forces that sponsor these acts.

I tried to tell her that most Americans do not know about these tragedies, and that we would never support those who perpetrate them. But her belief that the average American is savvy about international politics was as strong as it was na├»ve… “Of course Americans know we’re suffering over here,” she retorted. “You’re the most powerful nation on earth. And everyone has a television. I know you know.”

Read this book and take a step toward knowing “the other side.”

[Note: If this review sounds a little formal, it's because it's the same one I wrote for my office's newsletter--no need to revinvent the wheel, right?]

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