A dear friend who knows my interest in Israel gave me a book to read called “Blood Brothers.” As a Christian Palestinian who lived through the Jewish return to the land in 1948 and having been displaced by that return, Elias Chacour’s perspective is certainly not identical to most others. With the amount of emotional trauma he endured because of this event, to criticize this best-selling book would seem hard-hearted, especially toward a fellow Christian and his ministry. Yet to accept his perspective as “Gospel truth” is equally incorrect, as Chacour’s limited perspective seems to block out much truth, including of a biblical nature. Whether or not you have read this book, there is much information about the history of this crisis in the Middle East.
“Blood Brothers” is a book written by David Hazard, chronicling the life of a Palestinian Christian named Elias Chacour. Chacour describes his life in the land, which includes the Zionist occupation prior to 1948, as well as the post-1948 struggles. He refers to the land as Palestine, not Israel. As Christians, we need to understand the root of that word, Palestine. It comes from Philistine, meaning “immigrants.” These are the people God told the Jews to rid from the Promised Land. In fear or complacence, the Jews disobeyed God on that directive, and hence, this struggle continues today. Does that mean that God hates the Palestinians? No, but it is simple to see many differences in God’s promises to both groups. God’s blessing to Ishmael certainly differs from God’s blessing to Abraham! There are many unfulfilled biblical prophecies concerning Israel. To name a few, there are the promise of a remnant, a time of the Jews that will occur after the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24), and God’s promise that once He has placed the Jews in their land, they will not be uprooted out of it again (Amos 9:15). Let’s begin with that third promise:
“I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.
Amos 9:15 (NASB)
“Again” is an interesting word in this verse. The Jews were uprooted from the land previously, by the Assyrians and Babylonians, but a remnant returned, which was a small number according to the Book of Ezra. In AD 70, just as Jesus prophesied, the Romans uprooted the Jews in the diaspora, and sent the survivors to the four corners of the world. 1948 and 1967 became significant dates, with 1948 pointing to the Jews’ return to the Promised Land and 1967 pointing to the Jews’ return to Jerusalem, God’s holy city. Demonstrating that God has a plan, World War I prepared the land for the people and World War II prepared the people for the land! God loves the Palestinians, just as He loves us, though be careful not to intermingle His promises, as those who believe the doctrine of “replacement theology.”
Let me explain this belief. With Israel, the Promised Land, no longer populated by God’s chosen people, many Bible scholars began to apply the Bible’s unfulfilled prophecies concerning Israel to the Church. This made sense in many ways as Israel was no longer Israel. But then in 1948, a miracle occurred. Israel once again became Israel! Some Bible scholars saw their egregious error, understanding that God meant what He said and said what He meant. Just because Israel was not populated by Jews did not take away the land deed God had granted them. Other scholars, though, were so rigid in their belief that they were unwilling to change that belief, holding tightly to promises not made to them! Let’s say that I really want a bicycle for Christmas, and on Christmas morning, there is a bicycle under the tree. But the bicycle has your name on it. No matter how badly I want that bicycle, my desire for it does not make it mine! I can grab the bike and go for a ride, but chances are good that my father is going to let me know it is your bike! This is “replacement theology,” believing that God’s promise to Israel and the Jews has become God’s promise to the Church! Sadly, it is the belief of most Christian denominations today.
Instead of desiring to steal God’s blessings to Israel and the Jews, we should see God’s love for the Jews with joy. Notice how many times in the Bible that God forgave the Jews. An ongoing cycle occurred: the Jews would disobey, God would punish them, the Jews would repent and return to Him, God would bless the Jews and they would live in peace, and then the cycle would begin again when the Jews disobeyed Him again. This is grace, getting something we have not earned. God continued to love them, continued to forgive them and made promises for their future. God loves us the same way, but His promises to us do not include that Promised Land, but instead, a promised eternal home. In fact, by studying the Old Testament, we see many promises of earthly blessings to the Jews, His chosen people. But to the New Testament Christian, instead, we see promises of heavenly blessings and earthly trials!
Another subject to understand when looking at Israel is the difference between a promise of land and a promise of the usage of that land. The best analogy I have heard of this difference involves a new car that a father buys for his 16-year-old son. The car is in the son’s name, but the father makes a promise. He tells his son that if the son gets a speeding ticket, the car will be locked up. No surprise, the son gets a ticket, and the father locks the car in the garage for a time. The son does not lose ownership of the car, as the title is still in his name, but the son certainly loses usage of the car. That is exactly what God did with the Jews and Israel. There are at least 170 biblical references to God giving this land to the Jews. It begins in Genesis 12.
1 Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 (NKJV)
This was not a conditional covenant, with the Jews’ ownership of the land conditional upon their behavior. But usage of the land was conditional. Again, this does not mean that God did not also bless the descendants of Ishmael, the Philistines:
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” 22 Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
Genesis 17:20-22 (NKJV)
The promises to Ishmael and Isaac differed immensely. Let’s look closer at God’s covenant with Ishmael (in Genesis 16-17) and we see five aspects of that promise. God said:
- I will multiply your descendants exceedingly
- I will make your descendants a great nation
- I will give your descendants all the land east of Canaan
- I will give your descendants the personality of a wild donkey
- Your descendants will have a war-like spirit. Their hands will be against everyone
God has honored that covenant! Today, there are 200 million Arabs and around 13 million Jews. The Arabs have 5.3 million square miles of land, and it is oil-rich land! Israel, on the other hand, has 10,000 square miles, about the size of Maryland. The Arabs have 22 countries. Instead, the land of Israel is the only Jewish land. God did not promise to give the Arabs Canaan, but instead, the land east of Canaan and that is exactly what occurred (see Genesis 25:5-6). Let’s look a little further on in Genesis:
14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. 17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”
Once again, notice that there are no conditions God places on this covenant, but also notice the word “forever.” This ownership would not expire based on time, behavior or another person’s desire to own the land. The media certainly sides with the Palestinians. I wonder if that same media would desire for us to give the land of the United States back to the Indians and the Mexicans? Certainly, we were not the first people to inhabit the United States, but we dwell in it now, by might or by right! Rather than listening to the words of CNN, I think it is probably best to listen to the words of God concerning that land!
Before going into Hazard’s book, it is probably worth the effort of understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from more of an historical perspective. From AD 70 until 1948, Palestinians lived in the land, but the land was never called “Palestine.” Nor was there a different Palestinian language, culture or identity. Instead, Palestinians identified as Syrians. And that Arab war-like spirit that God referred to in His promise to Ishmael began fighting with Israel the day after the United Nations’ announcement of the vote passing for Israel to become a nation. This was the War of Independence in 1948. Then there was the Suez War of 1956, the Six-Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Lebanese War in 1981, the Gulf War in 1991, and starting in September of 2000, the Arab uprising, the Arab Intifada. “Land for Peace” is a common phrase heard in this peace process, but the Arabs do not want some of the land; they want all of the land!
In 1993, the first segment of the Oslo Accords was signed at Camp David, by Yassir Arafat of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s Prime Minister. Arafat agreed to give the Israeli’s peace if Israel would give up their heartland to the Palestinians. In most of the peace talks, the land in question typically involves the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Historically, three different Israeli leaders, Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert have each stated that they were willing to exchange the Golan Heights for peace. Six months after signing the Oslo Accord, Arafat gave a speech in Johannesburg, South Africa, saying this was a phase to give the Palestinians time to retake Jerusalem. Arafat repeated that speech at other times around the world. To anyone who disagreed with him, Arafat said he was copying the actions of Mohammed, stating that the “Oslo Accords were like the Treaty of Quraysh.” The Quraysh Tribe existed in Saudi Arabia, and when Mohammed and his followers were small in number, he made this laissez-faire style agreement in AD 628 to live and let live. But as soon as Mohammed had the numbers militarily, he slaughtered the entire Quraysh tribe. Similarly, this was the plan of Arafat, and had been for years, as Arabs wanted the complete destruction of Israel. Look at the PLO website. The map of the Middle East does not even show Israel! This slow assault began with the Phase Plan of 1974, written by Mahmoud Abbas during the reign of Arafat. This plan acknowledged that because the Arabs had no chance in defeating Israel militarily (after all, Israel is one of the few nations with nuclear capability), instead, they would attempt to win on another battleground, in stages. This would begin by encouraging diplomatic pressure on Israel through the United States, the Vatican, Europe and the United Nations, to return some land to the Arabs. This pressure would continue, attempting to acquire a little more land each time, and continue until the Arabs had enough land to launch a final strike, and defeat Israel. In 1948, after the events of Nazi Germany, public opinion sided with the Jews, but now, we can see that this Phase Plan has had an effect, as most seem to side with the Palestinians.
Arabs created this Palestinian claim on the land just after the 6-Day War of 1967, and it is nothing more than propaganda and trickery to achieve their goals. For example, think of their claim of Jerusalem as a holy city. Interestingly, Jerusalem is mentioned 670 times in the Old Testament and never mentioned in the Qur’an! Instead, that desire for Jerusalem is tied to the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, not surprisingly, lying is not a sin, but a requirement when dealing with an enemy. Remember, Arafat’s speech followed that same deceitful strategy by Mohammed. Another verse in the Qur’an is a driving force, as well. The verse states that Muslims have a responsibility to return a land to Allah if that land has been conquered and lost. Once a land has been conquered for Allah, it becomes Allah’s possession. (see Al-Hashr 59:10).
As this peace process continued during the tenure of U.S. President Bill Clinton, it came to a crossroads at Camp David in 2000. If anyone questions the Arab desire for peace, Arafat’s rejection of the offer by Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 is proof. Barak offered the Arabs everything they had asked for:
96% of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 4% of Israel adjacent to the Gaza Strip, 75% of the Old City of Jerusalem, and sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Arafat declined, went home and launched the Intifada. This event revealed so much. First of all, most Jews today are secular humanists. They are more Jewish by culture than Jewish by religion. Many are atheists or agnostic, ritually, knowing exactly how to worship the God they do not believe in! Most Jews believe that if they treat an enemy humanely, the enemy will treat them the same way. Yet, Moslems see this as weakness. Barak attempted to give land for peace, and it appears that God disallowed that from happening, protecting the land He had given to the Jews with Arafat’s prideful denial. Yet it makes it perfectly clear that the Arabs want all, not some, of the land of Israel. Now let’s address Chacour’s perspective in the book.
In “Blood Brothers,” Hazard attempts to wade the murky waters between two Christian views of Israel. One view is that, “the modern state of Israel constitutes a divinely mandated return of ancient Israel to the Promised Land and it is directly connected to the return of Christ.” The second view believes that, “Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jewish people. This view emphasizes that God’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom.” And certainly, there is a third, more prevalent, non-Christian worldview. That view is strongly anti-semitic, pro-Palestinian. This most prevalent view criticizes every Jewish attempt at defending themselves and their land. If nationals from Mexico were lobbing rockets into San Diego on a daily basis, how many think that the United States would not retaliate? This worldview should not surprise any Christian, as we know who has been granted dominion over this earth for a time—Satan! Satan hates the Jews. He hates them because Jesus was a Jew, He hates them because the Bible came from Jews. He hates them because he knows that the Bible states that someday, a great remnant of Jews will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
It is easy to see how Elias Chacour, even as a Christian, may have a different point of view. After all, his family lost their homes, regardless of their Christian beliefs, when the Jews returned to the land in 1948. Chacour seems to fault what he sees as an erroneous action by the United Nations, forgetting that the Bible states that God appoints countries and kings. Chacour explains that his family were Melkite Christians. Frankly, that was not a term I was familiar with, but Chacour said that Melkite Christians began in the first century, and were the peacemakers when a gnostic sect entered Christianity. He says that the gnostics, ”claimed Jesus was a mystical being and not a man at all.” The Melkites helped to right this wrong, according to what Chacour’s father explained to him. (page 37 of Blood Brothers) The Hebrew word and Arabic word for “king” are similar, pronounced MEH-lech, and that is the root for Melkites. Chacour’s father explained that this group of Palestinian Christians went to the kings and made sure that Christianity did not follow these gnostic beliefs. Two points to ponder here. First, who were the kings in first-century Israel? Is Chacour referring to the Roman rulers, who were not Christians? There certainly were no Jewish kings there at the time. Secondly, doesn’t that explanation of a gnostic belief in a spiritual Jesus instead of a physical one sound all too familiar to those who believe in a spiritual Israel rather than a physical one?
Perhaps the biggest logical misstep of Chacour’s belief occurs on page 40 of the book. His father is explaining to Elias a “fact:”
“The Jews and Palestinians are brothers—blood brothers. We share the same father, Abraham, and the same God.”
He states this as if it is irrefutable, but it is not only problematic, but completely wrong. Read the Qur’an and quickly notice that Allah is capricious, yet the God of the Bible, is unchanging. In the Qur’an, one statement frequently conflicts a previous one, and a stipulation exists that whatever Mohammed wrote last is the correct statement in case of those conflicts. But we know that Jehovah, YAHWEH, יהוה, does not conflict Himself in any way. Another huge difference between the two is how to obtain forgiveness. As Christians, we simply ask God for that forgiveness. It is a gift He gives freely. But for Moslems, one mistake can cancel the good already done, as salvation must be earned through rituals and deeds. Interestingly, Chacour seems to side with his Arabic brothers, the descendants of Ishmael, rather than siding with his Christian brothers. Only 2.7% of Palestinians are Christians, while most of the remainder practice Islam. Melkites, according to Wikipedia, are a sect of Catholicism. As a Catholic, it is probable that Chacour prays to the same God as other Christians, but to believe that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God is to believe that the teachings of Christianity and Islam are similar, or the same. It is interesting that the title of this book comes from this statement, “Blood Brothers,” as Chacour certainly believes that because the Arabs and Jews came from Abraham that they served the same God. Don’t forget the northern tribes of Israel who created two golden calves, and worshipped those calves instead of God. At that time of the split kingdom in the Promised Land, those idols were certainly not the same God being worshipped in Jerusalem, regardless of the blood ties of the Jews! Those northern tribes came from Abraham as well, but also fell into idolatry! Frankly, I could write a book on the differences between Islam and Christianity, but for now, I will just say this premise that Chacour presents as fact is enough for me to question everything else he says! If your foundation is shaky, the rest of the house is not likely to stand, and it does not sound like his foundation is the Rock, at least in this belief! It makes me think of blindspots in our mirrors when we are driving down the road. Rather than relying completely on our rearview and sideview mirrors, we either need to consult a friend with a better angle or look over our shoulders to get a better view, before changing lanes. Each of us as Christians have blindspots, and maybe this is Chacour’s. It would make sense, for blindspots usually occur in the areas too close to us that cause the most issues.
In Chapter Three, the author describes a horrible event. All of the Palestinian men of the village are taken away by soldiers, and the author makes a comment that the Jews did not look upon the “dirty Palestinians” as brothers. Chacour was left behind, with his brother, as they were still boys, not young men or men. It sounds cold and callous, and certainly, there could have been coldness and callousness in the event. But what is not mentioned is the timing of this event. It occurred after the declaration on May 14, 1948 by the United Nations that Israel was officially a nation. David Ben-Gurion made an announcement after each UN vote had been tallied. Imagine the weeping that occurred that day, especially after the events of the ovens and gas chambers of the Third Reich. The next day, without any chance to prepare, the re-birthed Jewish nation of Israel was attacked by the surrounding Arab nations. Notice that the word “nations” is plural. Those Arab nations told the Palestinians that after the war, the Arab nations would return that land and more to the Palestinians. God had another plan as the new nation of Israel swiftly won the war. So the event Chacour describes in this chapter can also be seen as a move of intelligence by the Jews. It is much more difficult to fight an enemy when there is a second enemy within, also fighting against you. Isn’t that what terrorism is all about? The Jews did not kill the Palestinians, but held them, until the brief war was over. While this must have been incredibly painful to the wives and children left behind, Chacour also describes his father and brother returning. They were not killed! Certainly, there is a balance here. Chacour explains this event in a later chapter, when in seminary in Paris. He reminds others that he and his family were “good Palestinians,” not terrorists. Yet when the nation of Israel was under attack on the second day of its existence, time was of the essence and certainly, those new citizens did not have time to ascertain which Arabs were friends or foes.
Chacour’s statements and feelings make it clear that he considers himself an Arab first. That connection seems to take precedence over his identity as a Christian. In Romans 11:2, Paul writes eloquently that “God has not cast away the Israelites, whom He foreknew.” Yet temporarily, the Jews are blinded. Clearly, there are two covenants here, discussed thoroughly by Paul in Galatians:
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.
Galatians 4:21-31 (NKJV)
It almost seems that Chacour wants to accept the Ishmaelic side of this covenant, under the Law, rather than the Abrahamic side of the covenant, under grace. To emphasize the Arab brotherhood first, as Chacour seems to be doing, is to emphasize the flesh. Think about it. As Christians, we are sons of Abraham just as Isaac was, sons of the promise! Paul emphasizes this in Galatians, as well:
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29 (NKJV)
I would much rather have the promise of the Promised Land!
In Chapter 7 (page 117), we finally see a change in Chacour’s heart. While on a trip to Germany, he has a vision or revelation into the suffering of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis only a few years earlier. In that segment, for the first time we see compassion. Certainly, this event will have a huge impact on Chacour’s future ministry, as he desired to be a peacemaker. It is difficult to find yourself in that role of peacemaker without compassion for both sides of the table!
We also need to understand the difference between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism. With Anti-Semitism, people seek to drive the Jews out from the lands where they lived and with Anti-Zionism, people seek to refuse them the right to live in the land that God gave them. Both include a hatred of Jews, but only the second has to do with the land of Israel. Even after this vision, and the seeds planted of Chacour’s compassion, he seems to differentiate between the Zionists (the new residents of Israel) and the Jews (the handful of Jewish neighbors he had known as a boy). Could the Zionists have been less heavy-handed? Yes, but remember, they are not Christians, and for most, their identity is in their culture, not their God. Chacour’s identity is in his God, and consequently, he cannot, would not, should not expect the response of the Jews to resemble the response of a Christian, just as trying to follow the Law is much different than following Jesus.
As Chapter 8 begins, Chacour continues to focus on his compassion for the Jews, but at that same time emphasizes that the typical worldview of Israel is not the full story, forgetting that the Palestinians had lived in the land for many years and had been severely mistreated by the entering Zionists. It should be pointed out that Chacour’s viewpoint is not the full story, either. At least so far, it is completely missing God’s viewpoint, as there are many, many Bible verses that specifically point to this event. I wonder if the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites felt mistreated by the Jews entering the Promised Land, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night leading the Jewish army? On page 120, Chacour discusses the birth of Zionism under Theodore Herzl, and specifically points to a meeting in Switzerland in 1897 in which Zionists could only agree upon a flag and an anthem. Chacour states, “By what right could Zionists expect to create a state in Palestine?” (page 120) Well, emphatically, by God’s right, who promised to give them that land “forever.” It is difficult for me to understand the point of view of a Christian man who places his own perspective over the perspective of God! Does Chacour spiritualize the entire Bible, or only the verses that apply to Chacour and his people? I realize that this subject must be painful for Chacour, but simply ignoring these verses is not the best approach. Possibly, at this time, Chacour never had read those verses, though prior to this chapter, he has entered seminary and soon finishes, after 10 years of preparation.
Interestingly, in Chapter 9, “Grafted In,” Chacour addresses questions of others who raise many of the same views that I have stated above. Didn’t God give this land to the Jews? Wasn’t this an eternal promise to Abraham, restated to Isaac, and restated to Jacob? Chacour makes excuses to answer these questions, with his viewpoint that Abraham did not mistreat others like the Zionists did! Again, this points out again that all of us have blindspots. A Bible verse can specifically point to each of us in a given situation, and our own delusion can apply that verse so incorrectly! In this chapter (page 145), for the first time, we actually see Bible verses. Here is one Chacour quotes:
And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 11:12 (NKJV)
Chacour argues that this does state that God will bring the Jews back, but it does not mention the location. But let’s read this verse in context:
11 Then it will happen on that day that the Lord
Will again recover the second time with His hand
The remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea.
12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
14 They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west;
Together they will plunder the sons of the east;
They will possess Edom and Moab,
And the sons of Ammon will be subject to them.
Isaiah 11:11-14 (NKJV)
In verse 11, we see that the Lord will bring the Jews back “a second time.” This lets us know it is not referring to the return from Babylonian and Assyrian captivity, as that was the first time. Additionally, in the list of places that God will restore them from, it mentions, “and from the islands of the sea.” This is a Hebrew colloquialism for “distant lands.” Notice the other lands cited at the end of the verses: Edom, Moab, Judah, Ephraim, Ammon. These are specific locations in the Promised Land. And in verse 14, we see that,
“They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west.”
Philistines. There is that word again. Palestine. It is the same word in Hebrew, identical. It’s like being hit over the head with a shovel, and seeing it coming, then having the imprint of the shovel on your face. Then you wake up, saying, “I wonder what hit me?”
From that point, Chacour cites Bible verses that point him in the direction of his ministry, binding the terms justice and righteousness together, being a peacemaker and discussing reconciliation. Before that time, it would seem that he is going to have to deal with his anger and bitterness toward the Zionists, whom Chacour feels have treated him and his people very unfairly. Again, I can only imagine what it must have felt like from his perspective, but it certainly seems like the first half of this book is written from an entirely anti-Zionist perspective, if not an anti-semitic one. On page 172, Chacour begins to address his own anger and hatred for the first time. Up to this point, he always pointed at what others had done to him, and finally, in this chapter, begins to acknowledge that he was in need of forgiveness just as much as the others he had been complaining about.
His ministry began in a small Galilean village, Ibillin, and Chacour is dismayed that the Palestinian church members are more complacent than he is about getting along with the Zionists. The church is dead, and after spending some time there, there is finally a breakthrough of forgiveness with most of the people attending the church. Almost immediately, Chacour becomes the first Palestinian priest to attend Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and his first days there coincide with the Six-Day War of 1967. Chacour still feels anger about the violence of the Zionists, and expects similar behavior by his Jewish teacher and fellow students at the Hebrew University. Yet almost instantly, one teacher shows love and acceptance. After one conversation, Chacour states his thoughts at the time,
“If only the whole nation of Israel—and the whole world—could understand that Jews and Palestinians can get along when they begin to treat each other with dignity.”
We often hear of a two-state solution, splitting the land into parts and giving one part to the Jews and another part to the Palestinians. But God has given provisions for “strangers in a strange land.” Think of Joseph in Egypt, and because of Joseph and a famine, the nation of Israel lived in Egypt at one time. Certainly, they were strangers, but God provided. In a similar way, God opened the door for the Jews to return to the Promised Land, then and in 1948. Yet when we look at the external pressures, the surrounding Arabic nations supplying bombs and arms to the Palestinians, this land is a melting pot at the boiling point. As Christians, we are called to follow Jesus. Isn’t that what it means to be a disciple? But if we look at the people involved in this struggle even today, once again, they are mostly secular humanistic Jews and Muslim Arabs, given “personalities like wild donkeys” and whose “hands will be against everyone,” to once again cite God’s prophetic words. This does not sound like two groups willing to treat each other with dignity! Chacour’s hopes of reconciliation and peacemaking are godly, but not likely to occur.
Elias Chacour rose from an impoverished village in what is now the land of Israel. He was Arab, has identified himself as Palestinian Melkite Christian, and certainly is not in any majority, as most Palestinians identify as Muslim. He attended seminary in Paris, was the first Palestinian to attend the prestigious Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is certainly highly educated. In his life, he has deeply affected many people. This book attempts to give new perspective to the conflict of the Middle East, and it definitely is a new perspective. But carefully walk through that perspective and mingle it with others, as it is not “THE TRUTH.” We know that the only real truth comes from God, as He is the only one who sees all and knows all. If a man’s perspective contradicts a statement from the Bible, that perspective is not based on truth. That being said, it does not mean we should throw Chacour’s opinion away as lies. He has suffered mightily in the midst of this conflict, and somehow, come through with a heart for all involved, though I would argue that his heart is much more softened when it comes to the Palestinians, his people. Chacour rose to archbishop, and recently retired with ill health and allegations of sexual harassment.