Monday, August 16, 2010

Gaza doctor writes book of hope despite death of three daughters.

This video was made famous during the Israeli war against Gaza as it highlighted for many Israelis the plight of innocent Palestinians caught up in the conflict. It was broadcast live over the Israeli airwaves.

People heard the pain of Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish - a Palestinian who made his living delivering Israeli babies - as he phoned an Israeli friend, who happened to be appearing live on television, and told him of the death of his three daughters from Israeli shelling.

It would be perfectly understandable should a person who has suffered such pain descend into bitterness and recrimination, but Abuelaish has instead written a book, which has been translated into 13 languages, including Hebrew, entitled "I Shall Not Hate."

I Shall Not Hate – published in Canada in April, and out in Britain in January – has had an extraordinary impact. Sitting in the home of his extended family in Jabalia, northern Gaza, Abuelaish – back on a month-long visit from Canada where he now lives and works – reads out emails on his BlackBerry from strangers expressing their sympathy, gratitude and support.

The book has been translated in 13 languages, from Finnish to Turkish – but most importantly copies will soon be available in Hebrew or Arabic. A book tour in the US is scheduled for January; proceeds from sales and appearances will go to Daughters for Life, the charitable foundation Abuelaish set up.

He explains his choice of title. "I'm against any violence. Violence and the military approach proved its failings decades ago and that will never, ever change. No one evaluates; we just continue blindly.

"As Palestinians and Israelis we have failed to change course. We just continue with the same approach which aggravates, escalates and widens the gap of hatred and bloodshed. It's easy to destroy life but very difficult to build it."

Would it not be understandable to feel hate after what has happened to him? "There is a difference between anger and hate. Anger is acute but transient; hate is a poison, a fire which burns you from the inside. We need to be angry, but direct it in a positive way."

One can't help but feel humbled when one witnesses someone rising above such pain, exhibiting an ability to forgive that we hope we would possess, whilst our astonishment at his achievement must make us doubt whether or not we ever could.
"Two weeks before the war came, [the girls] wrote their names in the sand. Where are their names now? Written in stone on their tombs. But I tell you one day their names will be written in metal and stone at schools and medical institutions dedicated to their memory. Words are stronger than bullets. We have to offer a message of hope to those who believe in hate and revenge."
It's an extraordinary achievement that a man who has lost so much should still find the ability to talk of peace and reconciliation. People like Abuelaish should be leading the peace talks rather than the politicians. When Abbas and Netanyahu finally sit down together, someone like Abuelaish should be in the room to provide both of them with perspective.

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