ONE @ 50: A Priest of Palestine

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. Ordained in 1966, Father George Rabadi gave up life in the army to embrace the priesthood. Read more about his path to the priesthood and the challenges faced by his community in Taybeh, a Christian village in Palestine’s West Bank, in this article, originally published in Summer 1975.

Read an excerpt from “A Priest of Palestine” below, then read the full story.

“I am the parish priest of a dying Church.” These are the words of Father George Rabadi, a Catholic parish priest in one of the world’s oldest Christian villages.

His village, called Taybeh, is proud of its history. When threatened with death, Christ himself took refuge among the families of Taybeh where he knew he would be safe (formerly, Taybeh was called Ephraim/JOHN 11:53-54). Villagers claim that Taybeh has been Christian since that time, and even the oldest inhabitant does not remember non-Christians having lived there.

In 1967, Taybeh had 3500 families. Now there are only 960. Every year more young men and women leave the village in search of educational opportunities and a better future in the Americas, Europe or Australia. Few return.

Father George is a man with a fascinating personal history. A tall and commanding figure, he was a Sergeant Major with General de Gaulle in the Free French Forces of Damascus during Hitler’s war. He spent eight and a half years with the Jordanian Frontier Force under the British. Later, he joined the Arab Legion and became a personal friend of General Glubb Pasha, the British officer who trained and led the army of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

No longer a soldier, George Rabadi has become a priest. He is also married with five children, and is the grandfather of ten. His family, which has seen him go from army man to cleric, has witnessed changes in his personality. As his wife comments, “When he was a Sergeant, he gave many orders. The children and I were a little afraid of him. As a priest he is different. One day I said to him, ‘Father, you are not the same. When you were an army man you were so strict with the children. Now you even wash the dishes. You have changed and have become so gentle.’ ”

Read more.

Desmond Sullivan lives in Jerusalem; he travels extensively in the Middle East and acts as area correspondent for the worldwide National Catholic News Service, Washington, D.C.

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