Fr. Marcel Dubois, O.P. (1920-2007)

Father Marcel Dubois, Dominican, was a philosopher, theologian, teacher, spiritual director and custodian of souls.
Born in France in 1920, he entered the Dominicans as a young man and was rigorously trained as a professor of Thomism, Having arrived in Israel in 1962 in order to join Isaiah House, a community of Dominicans engaged in discovering the reality of the Jewish people, Dubois was soon engaged to teach Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas at the Hebrew University. For many Israeli Jewish students, he was the first Catholic priest they ever encountered and his attentive and loving engagement with his students broke many of the stereotypes that these Israelis had inherited from the Jewish generation of the Holocaust that preceded them. Hundreds flocked to his classes that generally included some introduction to Christianity, offered in his characteristic strongly French accented Hebrew. In a country where Christians make up about two percent of the population, Father Marcel gave a face to the post-Vatican II Church, a Church engaged in serious, respectful and loving dialogue with the Jewish people. Later, serving as head of the philosophy department, he eventually was naturalized as an Israeli citizen and became a well-known public figure, receiving recognition from Israeli academic and civil authorities and winning prestigious awards, including, in 1996, the State President’s Israel Prize for his contribution to Israeli society. Increasingly popular among Jerusalem intellectuals were his regular public conversations with prominent Jewish Orthodox philosopher, Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz (1903-1994), a strong critic of Christianity.

Father Marcel had already met Jewish Catholics in Paris and so it was only natural that he became involved in the life of kehilla, whose Jerusalem home was Isaiah House where he lived and later served as superior. He is vividly remembered for his preaching, conferences and essays as well as his loving attention to many individuals in the community. Within the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, Father Marcel was a noted theoretician, theologian and activist in the growing dialogue with the Jewish people. His writings and conferences, mostly in French, became influential among the post-Vatican II generation of theologians who were working out the new relationship between the Church and the Jewish people. Father Marcel always attracted a steady flow of visitors seeking the guidance of the man who had found a place in the society and hearts of the Jewish people in Israel.

In his later years, especially after the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation at the end of eighties, Father Marcel began to distance himself from a blanket support for the State of Israel, remaining, however, true to his love for the Jewish people. In these years he was also no longer involved in the kehilla but some still remained deeply attached to him.
After his death on June 15, 2007, the influential Hebrew language Israeli daily newspaper, HaAretz, called Dubois “one of the enchanted human stones of Jerusalem” (18.6.2007). Passionate lover of Jerusalem and all its inhabitants, Father Marcel will remain a witness to the Church’s untiring work for reconciliation, dialogue and search for justice and peace. Many Israelis now repeat after his name: “Zikhrono livrakha – May his memory be blessed”.