As a priest and educator, the sixty-six-year-old Palestinian Elias Chacour has uncommon gifts, some inherited, others hard earned. Named by the Vatican and the Holy Synod of the Melkite Catholic Church in February to be the Greek Catholic archbishop of Galilee, he is the first Israeli citizen to be appointed to the position. He is also founder of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) in Ibillin, Israel, a school that specializes in practical engineering.
When Chacour was a child of eight, he and his family were evicted from their village of Biram in 1948. Soldiers of the newly constituted Israeli state told the Chacours that they would be able to return to their ancestral home in a few weeks. But shortly after that, the entire village was demolished for “security reasons.” Similar evictions continue in the occupied territories to this day.
In Gaza and the West Bank, it is often remarked-even by priests and educators-that politics is like daily bread. But Chacour redirects this observation. It is education, he insists, that is really “as important for us as Palestinians as the daily bread. Money and wealth can be lost. Land has been confiscated. Leadership has disappeared.” But education, which he describes as “the level of industry and understanding, the possibility to weigh and value things and go beyond the present situation, to be creative and inventive and to ask questions,” endures.