Blessed are the Peacemakers: Fr. Marcel Dubois, O.P. and Jerusalem

September 26, 2012

Today is “Yom Kippur” the most solemn and sacred “Day of Atonement” for those who practice the Jewish faith.  It is the day to make an appeal to Yahweh: to fast and do penance for the sins of the past year. During these high holy days Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed his hope that “Jews and Christians, growing in mutual esteem and friendship will be able to witness in the world the values that spring from adoration of the One God.” These words are what Fr. Marcel Dubois, O.P. and his community of Dominicans lived in the very city of Jerusalem.  Fr. Marcel died in 2007 at the age of eighty-seven, but the story of his life continues to be a beautiful witness to a love that transcends religious barriers. Here is a brief glimpse of Fr. Marcel and his work: He was a French Dominican.  During World War II, France was an occupied nation.  The Nazis along with their French collaborators in the Vichy puppet regime sought to identify Jewish people, and send them away to the death camps.  Fr. Marcel chose to resist.  Along with his fellow Dominicans he hid Jewish people from those seeking to do them harm. In 1962 he was chosen to establish the Dominican Order’s community within the state of Israel.  The Dominicans created “Isaiah House.”  Fr. Bruno Hussar, O.P., a member of “Isaiah House” described their mission as follows: “We had in mind a small village composed of inhabitants from different communities in the country. Jews, Christians and Muslims would live there in peace, each one faithful to his own faith and traditions, while respecting those of others. Each would find in this diversity a source of personal enrichment. The aim of the village: to be the setting for a school for peace. For years there have been academies in the various countries where the art of war has been taught. Inspired by the prophetic words: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more,” we wanted to found a school for peace, for peace too is an art. It doesn’t appear spontaneously, it has to be learnt. People would come here from all over the country to meet those from whom they were estranged, wanting to break down the barriers of fear, mistrust, ignorance, misunderstanding, preconceived ideas – all things that separate us – and to build bridges of trust, respect, mutual understanding, and, if possible, friendship.” For Fr. Marcel’s obituary the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz wrote that he was “one of the enchanted human stones of Jerusalem,” and that his work symbolized the city’s “possibility of being not only the scene of confrontation between religions and cultures but also the scene of their meeting.”  

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