Kafr Bar’am and the Christian tradition that is kept alive

Posted on Nov 9, 2018

We are in Upper Galilee, three kilometers from the border with Lebanon. The small village of Kafr Bar’am was the refuge of the Maronite Christians who arrived mainly from northern Lebanon seeking refuge. They left their country because of the wars, the difficult conditions of life and the persecutions suffered during the Ottoman rule. Initially, they were simple workers. Progressively, they bought land and managed to settle in the region.

Currently, the locality is part of the National Park of Israel and there are ruins of an ancient synagogue. The lavish structure indicates that a prosperous Jewish community was present in the fourth and fifth centuries. It is also said that both Jews and Jews who converted to Christianity lived in the area.

In the mid-twentieth century, the history of this place has changed its natural course. In 1948, the Arabs who resided there were forced to take refuge in nearby cities, such as Jish or even back into Lebanon. Several families saw their homes destroyed, were separated and made many attempts to return to Kafr Bar’am. Nevertheless, they were never allowed to return. Here are the testimonies of some of those who have closely witnessed this story.

MAROUN MAGZAL Originally from Kafr Bar’am: “I was born in this village known as Kafr Bar’am. I was 21 when we left here. Our village was occupied on October 29, 1948. After the June 1967 war, we were allowed to come back once a year to pray. That’s all. We face challenges coming every Saturday to attend mass. We hold meetings, have marriage celebrations, despite the serious restrictions, and despite the fact that it is declared a closed military zone.”

In the midst of the ruins, are the remains of the Maronite village of Kafr Bar’am, with a church that continues to be the spiritual center of this community. The memory of its inhabitants and the Christian traditions are intact.

Fr. SALIM SOUSSAN Vicar General – Maronite Church of the Archdiocese of Haifa: “This village has always been a meeting point, a center of prayer, where the faithful come and praise God together, morning and evening. They participate in Mass and religious devotions conducted by priests and monks. As a priest, I want to emphasize once again that the Church is the cornerstone that helps to form and unify Christians, without whom Christianity does not exist. The message of the Church is to see to the conditions of her children’s lives, wherever they may be, especially those who live in misery, poverty and those who suffer injustice and oppression. The message of the Church is to watch over the growth and spread of the faith.”

Father Salim Soussan, a Maronite priest, is also originally from the village and was five years old when his family fled. Every Saturday he celebrates Mass there. He says that most of the Maronite priests of Israel are from Kafr Bar’am. On the occasion of his visit to the Holy Land in 2000, St. John Paul II recalled what happened to the Christians of the village, an event which was also commemorated in the Synod of Bishops on the Eastern Church in 2010.

Fr. SALIM SOUSSAN Vicar General – Maronite Church of the Archdiocese of Haifa: “I’m really proud to have deep roots in my home village. Historical, social, and cultural roots. These roots live inside me. They are part of my being, of my identity.”