Salaam, Sholem and Pax Vobiscum
While Arabs and Israelis have periodically covered the ground with blood, Brother Yohanan Elihay has labored for half a century to help Israelis and Palestinians understand each other. His latest effort is The Olive Tree Dictionary, an Arabic- English dictionary with 8,000 words and 17,000 phrases.
He produced a Hebrew-Arabic dictionary in the 1970s, which is widely used in Israeli schools and the army, and a French-Arabic dictionary, among other publications.
A native of France, Brother Elihay speaks Arabic, English, and Hebrew as well as French. He chose Hebrew to tell Catholic News Service, “Language is the key to the heart.”
For Sister Rose Thering, a retired professor of education at Seton Hall University who died recently at 85, the troublesome lack of understanding has been between Christians and Jews. She hammered away at the anti-Semitism that used to be found in Catholic texts until she finally persuaded delegates of Vatican II to officially adopt a new attitude toward Jews and Judaism.
Cardinal Augustin Bea used her writings in drafting the Council document that “changed everything,” Sister Rose said. Her obituary in The New York Times noted that she wore a Star of David as well as a cross and signed her letters with the Hebrew word, “shalom.”
At the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet, Illinois, understanding between Catholics and Jews is well advanced. Rabbi Josef Germaine of the nearby Jewish congregation recently acted as guest cantor at Sunday Mass as part of Joliet’s ongoing interfaith dialog. With a beautiful, professionally trained voice, Rabbi Germaine was especially welcome. He was also invited to participate in the installation of Joliet’s new Bishop J. Peter Sartain.
Now the issue is Christianity versus Islam. When Pope Benedict XVI recently called for “reciprocity” in how Christians are treated in Muslim nations and vice versa, he was saying that religious freedom is a human right. A 2004 Vatican document called for people of different religions “to live together everywhere with equal rights and duties.”
This article appeared in the October 2006 (Volume 34, Number 4) issue of Word One.
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