Elias Chacour — Peace, Reconciliation, Respect, and Justice

Elias Chacour with NPI Board Member Bonnie Zehr

Elias Chacour with NPI Board Member Bonnie Zehr

Elias Chacour, the Palestinian Christian who has dedicated his life to making peace inside Israel, brought his testimony and witness to a Nazareth Project luncheon April 11 in Wilmington, DE.

Speaking to a group of 25 Nazareth Project supporters who traveled to Wilmington for the occasion, Abuna Chacour (as he is affectionately known) spoke of his struggle to build and maintain a school for Muslim, Jewish, Druze and Christian children and youth in Ibillin, a town in Galilee (northern Israel).

The Israeli government has repeatedly blocked his efforts (usually by denying permits to build), but Chacour has persisted.  Today, more than 3,000 students attend the private schools Chacour began.  Together, they are known as the Mar Elias Educational Institutions.

As Chacour puts it, “the future of the villagers in Ibillin, of the citizens of the state of Israel, and indeed the future of all of God’s children in the Holy Land, depend on educating the young in the ways of peace, reconciliation, respect, and justice.”

Chacour is well acquainted with Nazareth Hospital and School of Nursing. He spoke highly of its work and expressed appreciated for the steadfast support Nazareth Project  has provided.

During the Q & A that followed, Chacour spoke candidly of the “second class” citizenship Palestinians hold in Israel.  Yet he also cautioned against any form of animosity against Jews, whom he consistently refers to as “brothers.”

“We belong to this land together—Christian, Muslim, Druze and Jew,” he said.  “To Americans, I say:  we welcome your support and personal involvement, but not if it comes with hostility toward any of our neighbors.”

Berry Friesen – new NPI President

berry friesenIn Mid-January, I joined Nazareth Project’s staff.  Officially, I am called the president, though that seems a bit much for a team of three.

In one sense, I’m a surprising addition, having never been to Galilee or met the staff of Nazareth Hospital and having no connection to the medical profession.  Yet in another sense, I represent exactly the people Nazareth Project must engage if it is to continue its mission.

Over the years, the core supporters of Nazareth Project have been health practitioners, many of whom visited Israel and Palestine.  Thanks to this group of people, Nazareth Project has provided nearly $6 million in support for the Hospital over a quarter century.

To continue this important work, more supporters are needed.  I expect them to step forward and help, once they get acquainted with the story of the Hospital.

My personal story is zig-zag journey pursuing the justice spoken of so often in Scripture.  For a decade, I represented indigent individuals and groups in the courts. Next, I led Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) community developments program in some of the poorest localities of the U.S.  Then I worked as an anti-hunger lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington, speaking on behalf of people who worried about the source of their next meal.  Then I returned to MCC as a consultant.

What I see in Nazareth Hospital is so much more than a hospital.  Yes, its core mission is physical healing, but it also bears witness to the way of Jesus in a troubled land through education and community development.  It serves as an agent of empowerment through spiritual healing.  It is an encouragement to the Arabic-speaking community of Galilee, enabling it to be more resilient and resourceful, better able to seek reconciliation and pursue peace.

Thankfully, Karen Miller Rauch continues as our Grants Administrator and Jason Allgire as our Operations, Communications and Events Coordinator.    We look forward to talking with you soon about widening our circle of support.

NPI to administer Grant to Nazareth Hospital for Pediatric Equipment

Good news! Our investment of hard work over many hours has produced good fruit! Our most recent grant application on behalf of Nazareth Hospital was successful. Thanks be to God! The $500,000 award will come from USAID’s American Schools and Hospital’s Abroad (ASHA) program. All funds will go directly to improve and expand Nazareth Hospital’s Pediatric Services.

Doctor_childNazareth Hospital EMMS is the only provider of Pediatric surgery services in Nazareth, Israel. Weekly, a team of its staff travels to at-risk communities in the West Bank. The team conducts medical tests for children in a field clinic and distributes first aid and hygiene supply kits.

Expanded Pediatric capabilities will serve the needs of Palestinian children and youth and open the door for Residency training in Pediatric Surgery and Medicine. A Pediatric residency program at Nazareth Hospital will foster professional partnerships between Palestinian doctors from the West Bank and their colleagues living in Israel.

CURE International will advise on the operational expansion of the Nazareth Hospital’s Pediatric Orthopedic surgical capabilities to reach marginalized children in the West Bank. CURE doctors have extensive experience in addressing Clubfoot and the international organization will dedicate competent staff and sufficient management time to ensure that the partnership with Nazareth Hospital EMMS is a success.