There are, in this world, very few Good people, who practice their faith and, from that faith, hold nothing but love and peace in their hearts. One that immediately comes to mind is the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, a good and Christian man. Yesterday I learned of another; Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a good and Moslem man.Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is Palestinian whose family lost their ancestral land in Negev to the Israelis; he was born and grew up in Gaza, poor and in squalid conditions that caused many young Palestinians to turn to terrorism and martyrdom. Dr. Abuelaish, instead, worked hard to get an education.
He received a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo, and then received a diploma from the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of London. He completed a residency in the same discipline at Soroka University Hospital in Israel, followed by a subspecialty in fetal medicine in Italy and Belgium. He then undertook a masters in public health (health policy and management) at Harvard University.
Dr. Abuelaish went back to Palestine, living in the same refugee camp where he was born and raised, practicing medicine in both Gaza and Israel. He has been a life-affirming advocate for peace between both Palestine and Israel in spite of all the difficulties of trying to work in Israel and live in Gaza. The constant checkpoints he had to pass through each day didn’t dim his constant optimism, even when he was delayed trying to get to his dying wife’s bedside.
Four months, to the day, after his wife died the unthinkable happened; on January 16, 2009, his home was shelled by an Israeli tank. He was on the first floor of the house, the shell hit the upper floor.
Dr. Abuelaish lost three daughters that day, Bessan, aged 20, who wanted to be a doctor like her father, Mayar, aged 15, and Aya, 13, as well as one of his nieces, Noor, 17; they were blown apart. Another daughter, Shatha, who was in the same room as her dead sisters, his brother, Nasser, and one other niece, Ghaida, were seriously injured.
Dr. Abuelaish, just after the shelling, was called by an Israeli TV station for a scheduled interview, and the resulting conversation with a devastated, shell-shocked, father was broadcast live in Israel and, later, around the world. It is neither easy to watch nor hear – all human pain in the history of humankind is in this man’s voice
Let his tragic loss be the end of it, the signal to all Palestinians and Israelis to stand up and say, enough, let’s ensure that this tragedy does not repeat itself again ….
This good doctor now lives in Toronto, an associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
I heard Dr. Abuelaish interviewed yesterday on The Current, CBC Radio. It was a harrowing interview with the pain of his loss still evident in his voice when he speaks of his three dead daughters; but he also spoke of them with love and of their hopes and dreams of what they wanted to become. There is an audio of this interview should you care to listen to it. Scroll down to the Featured Audio column on the right hand side and click on May 5, 2010, Part 2; the audio will automatically begin.
Dr. Abuelaish continues to work for Palestinian/Israeli reconciliation and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Through his early experiences, his work in Israel and Gaza, the loss of his wife to cancer, to the tragedy of his daughters deaths by an Israeli tank, shell this man, this good and righteous man (in the best and fullest meaning of those words), has the grace to say
“Whom to hate?” …… “I have the right to feel angry ………. But I ask, ‘Is this the right way?’ So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is[b] I shall not hate[/b].