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Morning over the bay

Better Than Hatred

A Bereaved Father’s Call for Peace

Izzeldin Abuelaish

Available languages: français

21 Comments
21 Comments
21 Comments
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  • Helena

    What a witness to hope amidst the deepest darkness one can experience! I know the God of compassion and healing in this story. The doctor lives it and challenges me to live that message.

  • Maria

    Steve, in all respect but you should be ashamed of yourself. Deeply deeply deeply ashamed. I hope that in life you shall never witness what Mr. Abuelaish and his family have gone through. The sorrow, the pain, the loss, the injustice. And sadly many many more in this world deal with this as we speak. It is so easy to read such an article and respond to it from our own point of view but until we have walked in their shoes sometimes it is better to be silent and in this case thank God for His work in and through the life of Mr. Abuelaish. I am deeply thankful to read a story like this, it brings hope that there is still good left in this world, good people. Not perfect people, none is. But I am thankful for people especially like Mr. Abuelaish, may God bless Him abundantly.

  • J. Wallace

    I am appalled at the words from "Steve." Of course we should all do as much as we can to help humanity but in the end we are only one person and as such responsible for ONLY our deeds, etc..NO ONE ELSE'S!!. I read Dr. Abulaish's book, "I Shall Not Hate" and was so moved by the compassion. He "could" still be bitter..how about you?. If someone bombed your home and took most of your family from you..what would YOU do??. I am thankful for his contribution to the world and especially to his home country, Gaza.

  • Pascal

    Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish your are a great advocate for peace, God bless you. The change we need want to see in the world has to begin with us. I like your book, ' I shall not hate'.

  • Nan

    I disagree! Suffering is NOT from God! It is from the prince of darkness!

  • Jennifer Yu

    May God bless you Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish! I wept for the loss of your love ones and I thank you for choosing the path of forgiveness rather than hate. I pray that God will keep you and your family safe, and He will bless the wonderful work that you are doing.

  • Annie Roberts

    I'm in awe, you are a beautiful, inspirational human being. You are truly connected to wisdom and see God in all people and all around you despite your external circumstances. Thank you for sharing the nobility of your spirit, it's a deeply humbling reminder of what we truly are in our hearts, and have the capacity to be in the world. Thank you again and God bless you.

  • Sebastian ling

    You are a brave man.

  • viv cockayne

    Response to Steve. Only persecutors justify their thinking through a concept of 'blame'. What has happened to your heart? Have you forgotten how to feel with your heart or have you never known how?

  • Dee

    God bless you Steve. Your callous response broke my heart.

  • Frances Stanfield

    A real peacemaker, not just a peacetalker. We must share such stories, imitate such models and support their causes.

  • Steve

    Mr. Abuelaish, suffering does come from God. We all have a cross to bear and we are to carry it with dignity and perseverance. It sounds like you are trying to do so and I commend you for it. However, you also need to realize that you are not innocent. As an individual, I grieve for your loss. On the other hand, as a Palestinian, you have not done enough in the name of peace. You need to accept your guilt as a member of a people that lobs bombs and kills innocent women and children just as much as the Israelis. You make the case that Israelis as a collective are guilty of war, but where is the case against yourselves? I think your story lacks authenticity and self-awareness. As an American, I know that even though I have not committed atrocities, my people have. I do whatever I can to make amends to Native Americans and African Americans because the blood of the innocents is on my hands, inherited from the sins of my forefathers. What do you do to make amends to the Jews? I think you should embrace your suffering and pain and realize you are in part to blame for it.

  • Gerard Rowan

    My challenges are insignificant.......inspirational, a shining light for us all. May God be with you.

  • Dr JD Kabamba

    True Christianity! Dear Doctor, you are a beacon of hope for many.

  • Tony Brown

    Well. That really moved me with what he is saying and doing. It puts into light just how small my problems are. Thank you and god bless. Tony. Sydney Australia.

  • Bob Pounder

    A brave and noble man.

  • Andre

    This is a message of hope in a very troubled world. It gives all the food to go on.

  • Christopher Russell

    The refusal to hate, or even discriminate, in response to oppression is not the positive ethic of Jesus of Nazareth according to what is found in the Gospels. If professing Christians tried to take seriously what it means to actually love your enemies, then, conceivably, we might see something that rivals the astonishing nobility of Izzeldin Abuelaish.

  • Pam Utting

    Very touching and real. Thank you for this sharing and may God continue to bring healing through your skills, attitudes and faith.

  • Kiki

    Just beautiful,if everyone could think like him ,the world would be perfect and our holy father would be so proud of us. May peace be with all of us.God will always have mercy on us and in the whole world.

  • Clement Alu

    Thank you so much for this message. We pray that the Almighty will echoe your voice above the voices that preach hatred and the destruction of others who equally have the right to live. May the God of peace grant you unlimited favour and grace as you fulfill this task. Indeed no one is truly free at the expense of others. Its time to stop hating and destroying one another, blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the chiildren of God.

I was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp. As a child I never tasted childhood. I was born to face misery, suffering, abject poverty, and deprivation. However, the suffering in this world is man-made; it’s not from God. God wants every good thing for us and he created us for the good. But just because suffering is man-made, there is hope. It’s the hope that we can challenge this man-made suffering by not accepting it, and by taking responsibility. I can’t challenge God, but I can challenge someone on earth. And you can do the same.

People can deprive you, imprison you, or kill you, but no one can prevent any of us from dreaming. As a child, I dreamed of being a medical doctor. Through hard work I achieved my dream. Now I fight on a daily basis to give life to others. There are others who live to fight. Is this the purpose of our existence: to fight and to end others’ lives? A human life is the most precious thing in the universe. I know from my practice as a gynecologist how hard we work to save one life. Someone else can put an end to a life in seconds with a bullet. Each human being is a representative of God on earth, God’s most holy creation. We must value human life and be strong advocates of saving human life.

photo of Aya Abuelaish

Aya Abuelaish

This world is endemic with violence, fear, and injustice. We often mention that one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand people have been killed here or there. But people are not numbers or statistics: we need to zoom in to think of each of them as a beloved one. Each person who is killed has a name, a face, a family, a story.

I was the first Palestinian doctor to practice medicine in an Israeli hospital. Many Israelis see Palestinians only as workers and servants. I wanted them to see that Palestinians are human and that we are not so different. Medicine has one culture and one value: the value of saving humanity. Within the walls of a hospital we treat patients equally, with respect and privacy, wishing them to be healed. We don’t design treatment according to their name, religion, ethnicity, or background, but according to their disease and their suffering.

Why don’t we practice this equality outside of these institutions? Inside them we are angels and we remember that we are equal. We need to practice it outside. The happiest moment in my life is when I hand a baby to its mother; the cry of a newborn is the cry of hope that a new life has come to this world. There is no difference between the cry of a newborn baby of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Druze, or Bedouin parents. They are the same.

The most difficult time in my life was one four month period while I was working at this Israeli hospital. On September 16, 2008, I lost my wife, Nadia, to acute leukemia. It was sudden, taking only two weeks. I felt it was the end of the world. I believe that a mother is everything in life. The mother is the main pillar of the house; she is the one who gives, sacrifices, and builds without limits. In the loss of a mother, we lost her big heart, kindness, mercy, and love. But I couldn’t change it; I had to move with it. I was blessed to have six beautiful, bright daughters and two sons. I continued my work.

Then the unexpected happened. On January 16, 2009, just four months after the loss of my wife, an Israeli tank bombed my home in Gaza, killing three of my daughters and one niece. There was no reason to kill them. They were girls armed only with love, education, and plans. I raised them to serve humanity. They were drowning in their blood in their bedroom, their bodies spread everywhere. I wanted to see them. Where was Bessan, whom I saw a few seconds before? Where were Mayar, Aya, and Noor? Mayar was number one in math in Palestine and planned to follow my path and become a medical doctor. She was decapitated. I couldn’t recognize her. Where was Aya, 13, who planned to be a lawyer, the voice of the voiceless, to speak out and break the silence? Where was Noor, 17, who planned to be a teacher?

At that moment I said that God sees this tragedy, and it will be invested for the good. I asked myself why I had been saved; if I had stayed a few more seconds with them, I would have been gone. It was God’s mercy and plan that I was scheduled to be interviewed live on Israeli TV. My cries were heard through the world.

picture of Bessan Abuelaish

Bessan Abuelaish

Even when the whole world seems dormant and paralyzed, God is awake. God is alive. At that moment I directed my face to God, the one who is alive, awake, and strong. I didn’t feel angry. I only felt that I couldn’t accept what was happening and asked what I could do. At that moment I swore to God and to my daughters: I will never rest. I will never relax. I will never give up or forget you. How can I forget them? They are my beloved ones and I miss them.

I believe I will meet my daughters again, and they will ask me, “What did you do for us?” Until then they are alive in me, and I will meet them with a big gift, and that gift is justice for them and for others. I must prove that their lives and noble blood were not wasted. That they made a difference in others’ lives. That they saved others. But to do that, we can’t use bullets and bombs like the one which killed them.

The bullet is the weapon of the weak: it kills once. You have the strongest weapon. It’s your wisdom and your kind, courageous words. Words are stronger than bullets. We need to say the right word in time. What is the value of saying it afterward? What is the value of treating patients after they have died?

The first message of support came from my fourteen-year-old son, Mohammed. While I was crying he looked at me and said, “Why are you crying? Why are you screaming? You must be happy.” I said that he didn’t know his sisters had been killed. How can he tell me to be happy? He said, “No, I know my sisters are killed, but I know that they are happy there. They are with their mom. She asked for them.” That fourteen-year-old Palestinian child could teach world leaders to be patient. I thought that if he said that, I don’t need to worry about him. He knows his way. And I too have to move forward. As Einstein said, life is like riding a bicycle. To keep balanced we must keep moving. I kept moving faster, stronger, more determined. Not looking backward, only forward.

I wrote my book I Shall not Hate because people expected me to hate. Maybe I have the right to hate. But we are blessed to be human, to have choices in life between the dark and the light, between what is right and what is wrong. If I want to bring my daughters justice, is it with hatred? Is it with darkness, with blindness?

Hatred is a disease that eats the one who carries it. It is poison. It is a fire which burns the one who started it. It is cancer, a self-destructive disease. It’s a heavy burden with which you can’t move forward. It makes you sink deeper. Don’t allow this disease. Build a shield around you. Don’t allow hatred. I said that I shall not hate, meaning that I’m not going to be sick. I will never be broken or defeated by this disease. I will challenge it and take responsibility. Don’t blame others, but take responsibility and move forward. Be angry, but in a positive way. When you see something wrong, don’t accept it. Ask, “What can I do to change it?” Don’t feel so angry that you lose control and then regret it. We need a constructive, positive anger that energizes us.

portrait of Mayar Abuelaish

Mayar Abuelaish

Whatever you do makes a difference. Don’t say it won’t impact others. The patient needs action, a prescription. They don’t need words. Everything starts with words, but these words have no meaning if they are not translated into action. It starts with small actions. First make a difference in your local community. Speak out. Evil flourishes in this world when good people do nothing and think they are far from risk. What do you hear? What do you see? Does it harm human beings? This world is becoming smaller and smaller. We live in one boat. We must not allow anyone to do harm to this boat or we will all sink.

Your freedom depends on mine. No one is free as long as others are not. We must stand for the freedom of all. We must speak out about the freedom of all – freedom from need, ignorance, poverty, sickness, and fear. In memory of Bessan, Mayar, Aya, and Noor, I established the Daughters for Life Foundation for the education of girls and women from the Middle East. Social and economic challenges should not be a barrier to girls’ education. In these girls I see my daughters’ dreams and plans being fulfilled. I see these girls as my daughters. God took three daughters and one niece from me, but has given me hundreds more.

Izzeldin Abuelaish Izzeldin Abuelaish
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