On Thursday, May 4, 2017, an evening was held at the Salesian Pontifical University campus in Jerusalem to remember Father Jacob and Father Thomas of the Lavra Netofa.

lavra netofa evening

In 1967, Lavra Netofa was founded, perched on the peak of Mount Netofa in Galilee, a monastery in the Byzantine tradition, under the authority of the Greek Catholic Church in Galilee. The founders, Dutch Father Jacob and American Father Thomas, were Trappist monks who had a great love for both Jews and Arabs and a deep respect for the traditions of the Christian East. Over the next 40 years, the monastery would be a meeting place for Israelis and Arabs, pilgrims and searchers for the truth from all over the world.

On the evening of May 4, an event was held to remember this place and its founders. Salesian Father Matthew Coutinho, professor in the University, introduced the program. It began and ended with two hymns, sung in Hebrew by Father Rafic and Benedetto from the Saint James Vicariate. The first speaker was Pnina Bar, an Israeli, who frequented the monastery for many years and was a close friend of the two founders. She has recently published a book to remember them and the place she loved. The book in Hebrew, entitled “Yaaqov and Toma, the monks from Mount Netofa” is a wonderful souvenir of this place. Pnina made an impassioned plea to her Christian audience: “Something is missing in the Holy Land, a spiritual meeting place for all peoples, where each one is respected and loved. This was Lavra Netofa and since its closing, after the death of Father Yaaqov, we miss it. Please think about opening a place like it”.

The second speaker was Father David Neuhaus, Latin Patriarchal Vicar, who addressed the theme of “Light from the East”. He placed Father Jacob in an historical and cultural context, the Catholic Church in the middle of the twentieth century. Many Catholics, horrified by what Europe had passed through during the two World Wars and centuries of violent conquest and submission, turned eastwards to seek the roots of Christianity and the wisdom and beauty of the traditions of Oriental Christianity and the other religions and cultures of the East. Father David made extensive reference to the documents published by Pope Leo XIII, the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II promoting the dignity of the Eastern Churches, especially the beautify of their liturgy and the spirituality of their monastic traditions.

In the audience were those who remembered the monks and had frequented the Lavra, who shared their souvenirs.