Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish was a rarity in the Middle East, a resident of Gaza with a permit to enter Israel because of his work. The son of refugees in the Gazan city of Jabaliya, he saw himself as a bridge between the two distrustful cultures, and his life was often put forward as an example of the kind of reconciliation that might one day rescue the region from its cycles of violence.
He was well known as a campaigner for women’s rights and for his joint projects with Israeli physicians, bringing injured and ill Gazans for treatment in Israel and researching the effects of conflict-related stress on Palestinian children in Gaza and Israeli children in Sderot, the Israeli border town that has frequently been the target of Gazan rocket fire.
Then in January 2009, during the three-week war in Gaza, tragedy struck, challenging in the most poignant way imaginable his faith in his life’s work. Israeli tank shells slammed into his Gaza Strip apartment, killing three of his daughters and costing another her sight in one eye.
His anguished response brought him global acclaim. Rather than seek revenge, he appealed for a new dedication to peaceful dialogue and an end to violence.
He set up a foundation called Daughters for Life to memorialize his children and provide scholarships for young women in the Middle East. And he wrote a powerful memoir reaffirming his belief that the decades-long conflict will be transformed only when individual Palestinians and Israelis recognize their shared precarious humanity.
It is called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, and on April 25th, Dr. Abuelaish gave a very moving account to a hushed audience at IPI of the experience and his abiding belief in the possibilities of peace.
The talk was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI’s Vice President for External Relations.
To listen to the podcast, click the “play” button: