Elias Chacour (born November 29, 1939) is the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Noted for his efforts to promote reconciliation between Arabs and Israelis, he is the author of two books about the experience of Palestinian people living in present-day Israel. He describes himself as a "Palestinian-Arab-Christian-Israeli." 
Elias Michael Chacour was born in the village of Kafr Bir'im in Upper Galilee in the British Mandate of Palestine to a Palestinian Christian family of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. His family took refuge in the neighboring village of Jish after Bir'im was occupied by Yishuv forces. Chacour and his family became Israeli citizens in 1948, after the establishment of the state. He attended a boarding school in Haifa and then a high school in Nazareth. He studied theology at St. Sulpice Seminary in Paris. Returning to Israel in 1965, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop George Selim Hakim of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee, who became Patriarch Maximos V two years later. He later studied Bible and Talmud at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as Aramaic and Syriac, becoming the first Arab to gain a higher degree there.
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Chacour came to the village of Ibillin in Galilee as a young priest in 1965. This village was the birthplace of the most recent saint of the Melkite Church, Blessed Miriam Bawardy, a Discalced Carmelite mystic of the nineteenth century responsible for the Carmel of Saint David's Tower in Bethlehem who was beatified by Pope John-Paul II on November 13, 1983. Elias, seeing the lack of educational opportunities for Arab youth beyond the 8th grade, set about creating a school open to all local children, regardless of religious affiliation. In the early 1980s, on an empty hillside now known as the Mount of Light (Jebel an-Nour), a classroom building was begun. The newly formed high school moved from temporary quarters in the community center to the new building as soon as it was ready. The original high school has expanded considerably and now includes a primary school and a community college. The co-educational Mar Elias Educational Institutions enroll 4,500 students, including Muslims, Christian, and Druze.
Chacour currently serves as Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee. The main city of his diocese is Haifa, the great city of northern Israel. He was consecrated a bishop in the church of Saint Elias in Ibillin and his enthronement in the Haifa Cathedral was broadcast by the Melkite Ecumenical television station "Noursat" which originates in Beirut, Lebanon. Chacour is vice president of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.
Views and opinions
An advocate of non-violence, Chacour travels often between the Middle East and other countries around the world. In addition, many visitors, fact-finding missions, and pilgrims have come to Ibillin. In recognition of his humanitarian efforts he has received honors including the World Methodist Peace Award, the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, the Peacemakers in Action Award from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, and the Niwano Peace Prize (Japan) as well as honorary doctorates from five universities including Duke and Emory. In 2001 Chacour was named "Man of the Year" in Israel.
You who live in the United States, if you are pro-Israel, on behalf of the Palestinian children I call unto you: give further friendship to Israel. They need your friendship. But stop interpreting that friendship as an automatic antipathy against me, the Palestinian who is paying the bill for what others have done against my beloved Jewish brothers and sisters in the Holocaust and Auschwitz and elsewhere.
And if you have been enlightened enough to take the side of the Palestinians -- oh, bless your hearts -- take our sides, because for once you will be on the right side, right? But if taking our side would mean to become one-sided against my Jewish brothers and sisters, back up. We do not need such friendship. We need one more common friend. We do not need one more enemy, for God's sake. '
From a February 9, 2006 speech regarding becoming Archbishop of Galilee:
|“||I did not dream of this responsibility and this great honor. My dreams were different. At sixty-five years of age my ambition was to dedicate the rest of my life to prayer, reading and writing, but like Paul on the way to Damascus the Lord seems to tell me that he is the one in control. My answer is, "Here I am Lord. I am your servant to continue the ministry of reconciliation and to proclaim more forcefully the Good News about the Empty Tomb and the Risen Lord." No doubt my first reaction was tears of awe, of joy and of gratitude.||”|
Chacour is the author of two best selling books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land. Blood Brothers covers his childhood growing up in the town of Biram, his development into a young man, and his early years as a priest in Ibillin. This book has been translated into more than twenty languages.
His second book, We Belong to the Land, recounts his work in the development of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, from humble beginnings to major schools for educating Palestinian young people and for helping to bring about reconciliation in a land of strife. This book has been translated into 11 languages.
- Twelve Days to Jerusalem website
- Biography of Archbishop Elias Chacour by Giga-Catholic Information
- Pilgrims of Ibillin website