Dear family and friends,
just finished reading a book that our dear friend, Delta Bement, loaned to us.
It is a must read: "Blood
Brothers" by Elias Chacour. He is Palestinian-Arab, and was raised in
the little village of Biram in the upper Galilee in Israel. He was blessed
with a very wise parents, and in his tender years had grown up in peace with
his Jewish neighbors. He was raised with a very strong Christian heritage
dating back to the first century.
His wonderful Christian upbringing was in stark contrast to the horrible
treatment they received under the hands of the Israeli government Zionists as
they were driven out of their village. Shortly after this, at the age of 12,
he was given the opportunity to study with a Bishop in Haifa, and as his
father sent him off he told him, "If you become a true man of God you
will know how to reconcile enemies, how to turn hatred into peace. Only a true
servant of God can do that."
To add insult to injury, the Israeli government told the people of Biram
that they could go back, Christmas day 1951. As they joyfully approached the
village, they saw that it "was surrounded by Zionists tanks, bulldozers
and other military vehicles." Then, "tank shells shrieked into the
village, exploding in fiery destruction. Houses blew apart like paper... home
collapsing against home, fire spreading through the fallen timbers. Then all
was silent, except for the weeping of women and the terrified screams of
babies and children."
Elias grieves, "How can we ever find again the peace we used to share
with our Jewish neighbors?... The Bishop's house of charity would shelter and
instruct me. As with all the people of Biram, I would continue to eat the
bread of the homeless and the orphaned."
At age 19, he and his dear friend, Faraj, were sent to continue their
studies at Saint Sulpice in Paris, a very good school. Here they met Western
culture and were taken back by what they found. Elias in conversation with
Faraj said, "There is something... I don't understand. People have so
much here -- nice homes, cars, clothes -- and so little faith. Both Catholic
and Protestant churches are almost empty. What's happened here?"
Faraj nodded. "People in the West seem so taken with material things.
It' as if they have nothing in their spirits, so they need to surround
themselves with nice comforts.... The real problem is that Western theology
starts with man as the center of all things and tries to force God into some
scheme that we can understand.... Elias, we've grown up believing that God is
the beginning and end of all things. He is central, not an afterthought. He's
alive and has His own ways. Here, they want to tame God with their
"Worse than that," Elias countered. "I'm afraid the Western
philosophies have killed God. If there's no respect for Him, what value do men
have? Without God there is no compassion, no humanity."
Living in Europe and traveling in Germany, Elias gained a much deeper
understanding of the persecution of the Jews. While traveling and visiting
some dear friends in Germany, he had a life changing event. "For the
first time that twisting dark feeling inside me was matched -- if not totally
overruled -- by another feeling: the ache of compassion. It was as if some
calming hand was beginning to tame a wild creature within me. I hurt for the
Jewish people. Why had the civilized world allowed them to be persecuted?
"Other questions were just as troubling. Why did the world allow my
people to be driven into diaspora only a few years after the Holocaust? Surely
the Jews knew the horror of militarism--why had they used such violence
against my people? How had the minds of the nations been poisoned to think of
Palestinians as an idle, worthless people capable of nothing but
He had worked hard at Saint Sulpice, had earned top grades and learned to
speak eight languages. He was to be ordained at St. Joseph's church in
Nazareth. When he arrived at the port in Haifa and they saw his passport, even
though he was an Israeli citizen, because he was Palestinian they made him go
to a search room, where they demanded he strip all of his clothes off. He
refused; they countered that he would not be allowed back in his country. He
took out a book and sat and read for eight hours before they finally
acquiesced and let him in.
After the ordination, he left early one morning before daybreak and visited
his destroyed village of Biram, where he was raised. He reflected on the many
memories and his father's sage comment, "The Jews and Palestinians are
blood brothers. We must never forget that."
He then felt impressed to go to the Mount of Beatitudes. Finding a place
alone, he then began to reflect on what the Savior had shared with the
multitude in this the greatest of all sermons, and thus with the world:
And he began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven..."
Elias was touched deeply as he reflected, being "drawn in afresh by
His words. Through the years they had become as part of my flesh. Perhaps
their very familiarity had obscured their true meaning from me... Jesus' words
seared through me for the first time with deep meaning. The phrase,
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will
be satisfied;" struck him like lightning. Then like a thunderclap after
the lightning came, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called
sons of God."
"With these words," he said, "It seemed that I had finally
found my way. I was oblivious that a deeper work was still needed in my
As I read these words of Elias, I was deeply touched as I recognized he was
beginning to receive his true rebirth unto God. As Jesus told Nicodemus,
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." We
will not have the spiritual eyes necessary to see the hand of God as He works
with us unless we choose to give our will to His. Here is where the change of
heart can commence. He will not force it. This is a critical recognition that
we all need to come to that so that we may receive that change so elegantly
described in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, and which Elias was
beginning to receive at this point in his career as a minister of God.
Elias was given the assignment to be the pastor at Ibillin in Galilee. He
had never heard of it. It was a little village situated a top a hill. The
people were divided among the several religious groups in the country. The
church was decrepit; the front door hanging on one hinge.
As he arrived, the person responsible for the church grounds, etc. ran out
to him menacingly, and shouted, "Get out of here!" Some two years
before, the last pastor had stolen about everything he could steal, including
bed and latrine from the parish house. This obviously left very bitter
feelings with the "Responsible" as well as with the parishioners.
Elias pulled some church benches into the parish for a bed, and began his
life's work in the face of enormous obstacles -- neither the community nor the
"Responsible" wanting a pastor.
He was successful in getting three Catholic sisters (nuns) to help with the
work. They visited house to house, set up primary school instruction and
provided an enormous amount of compassionate service for the mothers and their
little ones in the community. With time Elias and the sisters won the hearts
of more and more of the people.
At the same time the "Responsible" was busy lining up as many as
he could against Elias. The policeman in town was part of this opposing group,
and this policeman also had a hate relationship with his brothers, threatening
to kill them if they came to his door.
Elias records, "My year-and-a-half of home visits and the sisters'
months of ministrations had made a dent--a small dent in reuniting the
believers of Ibillin. Few attended the church regularly and walls of hostile
silence remained firm. However, most of them would not think of missing
services during the Christmas and Easter seasons, coming to be comforted by
familiar customs, not out of desire for true spiritual renewal. True to the
pattern, attendance increased markedly on the first Sunday of Lent, growing
each week as Easter approached.
"On Palm Sunday, every bench was packed. Nearly the entire
congregation had come, plus a few other villagers whom I had invited. The
weather that morning was balmy, with a warm, light wind straying through the
streets, so I left the doors wide open, hoping that passers- by might be
attracted by our singing. When I stood up, raising my hands to signal the
start of the service, I was jolted by stark, staring faces.
"Looks of open hostility greeted me. The Responsible's faction was
clustered on one side of the church, almost challenging me with their icy
glares. Indifferently, those whom the Responsible had ostracized sat on the
opposite side. I was amazed to see Abu Mouhib, the policeman, perched in the
very front row with his wife and children. In each of the other three
quadrants of the church, as distant from one another as possible, were his
three brothers. The sisters, I could tell, felt the tension, too, for their
faces were blanched. I rose and began the first hymn, certain that no one
would be attracted by our pathetically dismal singing. I thought, with
sadness, of the battle lines that were drawn across the aisles of that
sanctuary. And nervously, I hoped that no one would notice the odd lump in the
pocket beneath my vestment.
"What followed was undoubtedly the stiffest service, the most
unimpassioned sermon of my life. The congregation endured me indifferently,
fulfilling their holiday obligation to warm the benches. But then, they did
not suspect what was coming. At the close of the liturgy, everyone rose for
the benediction. I lifted my hand, my stomach fluttering, and paused. It was
now or never.
"Swiftly, I dropped my hand and strode toward the open doors at the
back of the church. Every eye followed me with curiosity. I drew shut the huge
double doors which workmen had rehung for me. From my pocket I pulled a thick
chain, laced it through the handles and fastened it firmly with a padlock.
"Returning to the front, I could almost feel the temperature rising.
Or was it just me? Turning to face the congregation, I took a deep breath.
'Sitting in this building does not make you a Christian,' I began awkwardly.
My voice seemed to echo too loudly in the shocked silence. The sisters' eyes
were shut, their lips moving furiously in prayer.
"'You are a people divided. You argue and hate each other--gossip and
spread malicious lies. What do the Moslems and the unbelievers think when they
see you? Surely that your religion is false. If you can't love your brother
that you see, how can you say you love God who is invisible? You have allowed
the body of Christ to be disgraced.'
"Now the shock had turned to anger. The Responsible trembled and
seemed as through he was about to choke. Abu Mouhib tapped his foot angrily
and turned red around the collar. In his eyes, though, I thought I detected
something besides anger.
"Plunging ahead, my voice rose. 'For many months, I've tried to unite
you. I've failed, because I'm only a man. But there is someone else who can
bring you together in true unity. His name is Jesus Christ. He is the one who
gives you power to forgive. So now I will be quiet and allow Him to give you
that power. If you will not forgive, we will stay locked in here. You can kill
each other and I'll provide your funerals gratis.'
"Silence hung. Tight-lipped, fists clenched, everyone glared at me as
if carved from stone. I waited. With agonizing slowness, the minutes passed.
Three minutes... five... then... I could hear, outside, a boy coaxing his
donkey up the street and the slow clop-clop of its hooves. Still no one
flinched. My breathing had become shallow and I swallowed hard. Surely I've
finished everything, I chastised myself, undone all these months of hard work
with my--Then a sudden movement caught my eye.
"Someone was standing. Abu Mouhib rose and faced the congregation, his
head bowed, remorse shining in his eyes. With his first words, I could
scarcely believe that this was the same hard-bitten policeman who had treated
me so brusquely.
"'I am sorry,' he faltered. All eyes were on him. 'I am the worst one
of all. I've hated my own brothers. Hated them so much I wanted to kill them.
More than any of you I need forgiveness.'
"And the he turned to me. 'Can you forgive me, too, Abuna?'
"I was amazed! Abuna means 'our father,' a term of affection and
respect. I had been called other things since arriving in Ibillin, but nothing
"'Come here,' I replied, motioning him to my side. He came, and we
greeted each other with the kiss of peace. 'Of course I forgive you,' I said,
'Now go and greet your brothers.'
"Before he was halfway down the aisle, his three brothers had rushed
to him. They held each other in a long embrace, each one asking forgiveness of
"In an instant the church was chaos of embracing and repentance.
Cousins who had not spoken to each other in years, wept together openly. Women
asked forgiveness for malicious gossip. Men confessed to passing damaging lies
about each other. People who had ignored the sisters and myself in the streets
now begged us to come to their homes. Only the Responsible stood quietly
apart, accepting only stiffly my embrace. This second church service--a
liturgy of love and reconciliation went on for nearly a full hour.
"In the midst of these joyful reunions, I recalled Father's words when
he had told us why we must receive the Jews from Europe into our home. And
loudly, I announced: 'We're not going to wait until next week to celebrate the
Resurrection. Let's celebrate it now. We were dead to each other. Now we are
"I began to sing. This time our voices joined as one, the words
binding us together in a song of triumph: 'Christ is risen from the dead. By
His death He has trampled death and given life to those in the tomb.'
"Even then it did not end. The momentum carried us out of the church
and into the streets where true Christianity belongs. For the rest of the day
and far into the evening, I joined groups of believers as they went from house
to house throughout Ibillin. At every door, someone had to ask forgiveness for
a certain wrong. Never was forgiveness withheld. Now I knew that inner peace
could be passed from man to man and woman to woman.
"As I watched, I recalled, too, an image that had come to me as a
young boy in Haifa. Before my eyes, I was seeing a ruined church rebuilt at
last--not with mortar and rock, but with living stones.
"Truly the church in Ibillin resembled a lifeless body returning from
the dead. In the jubilant singing and prayers on Easter, I felt the eager
breath of new life. In the streaming tears, I saw, as in the story of Lazarus,
brothers and sisters rushing to each other's embrace. Gifts of food arrived
daily and, amazingly, we never purchased groceries from then on, for the
generosity of these humble people was to prove bottomless. Immediately after
the holiday, some in the congregation decided that the church building itself
needed total rejuvenation and the sanctuary was soon bustling with workmen
busy at repairs...
"News about the sisters' tender concern for Moslem and Christian alike
spread immediately through the hill country. Almost overnight, other villages
began contacting me, asking that I send Christian women to live with them, to
work and teach. I had not expected this. Moreover, I was amazed that so tiny a
spark of love could shine like a beacon..."
Elias Chacour continues his work of reconciliation in the strained
atmosphere of Israel, hoping to "change hearts, not simply
institutions." His ventures are bold, often risky: Palestinian students
visit kibbutzim; Jewish students live for short periods in Palestinian
villages; Jewish and Palestinian educators face each other for head-to-head
dialogue. Too, Chacour keeps a grueling schedule lecturing worldwide, always
relying on the simple and urgent message of the Beatitudes.
As I have come to know the Savior, I rejoice in His love, which leads us to
the source of all love, The Father. The Spirit is the testifier, the purifier,
the sanctifier of our souls, to bring us to where we bask in this love and
rejoice in the truth. I know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life
and that no one can come unto the Father except by Him. Jesus descended below
them all, and overcame all things. As we put our hand in His, He will help us
overcome all things, that we may find that GRAND HARMONY OF THE UNIVERSE and
BE ONE WITH GOD. This is ours as we willingly submit our will to the will of
the Father as did His Son; we can and will be glorified in TRUTH, rejoicing in
Him who is the author of all TRUTH.
As we are now in the end-time scenario in preparation for the great return
of our Lord and Savior, I rejoice in the story of Elias Chacour and with him
"hear the whispers of the Man of Galilee, saying, "Behold, I make
all things new." With Him, in the midst of the greatest of tribulations,
we can find peace: "My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth...
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the
world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the
world." (John 14:27; 16:33) These tribulations will stretch us even as
Abraham, but out of all of this, as we totally trust in the Lord, He has
promised, and His promise is sure, "that your joy might be full." My
cup runneth over, and for this reason I felt to share the above with you. I
Faithfully and eternally yours,
Dad, Grandpa, and your friend, David W. Allan