I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey by Izzeldin AbuelaishI Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey by Izzeldin Abuelaishsticker-burst

I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey

byIzzeldin Abuelaish

Paperback | March 29, 2011

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A Palestinian doctor who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Izzeldin Abuelaish is an infertility specialist who lives in Gaza but works in Israel. The Gaza doctor has been crossing the lines in the sand that
divide Israelis and Palestinians for most of his life--as a physician who treats patients on both sides of the line, as a humanitarian who sees the need for improved health and education for women as the way forward in the Middle East. And, most recently, as the father whose daughters were killed by Israeli soldiers on January 16, 2009, during Israel's incursion into the Gaza Strip.

It was Izzeldin's response to this tragedy that made news and won him humanitarian awards around the world. Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hatred, he called for the people in the region to start talking to each other. His deepest hope is that his daughters will be "the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis."

Heather's Review

Every once in a long while you come across a book that touches your heart so deeply you will always remember where you were when you read it. And well after you turn the last page, the story will remain with you – imprinting a message that in some small way changes how you see the world. I Shall Not Hate, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s per...

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Izzeldin Abuelaish, MD, MPH, is a Palestinian physician and infertility expert who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. 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 sa...
Title:I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's JourneyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 7.99 × 5.21 × 0.58 inPublished:March 29, 2011Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307358895

ISBN - 13:9780307358899


Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok A great novel with clever, easy to follow writing with funny and witty characters. Definitely a must read!
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Don't we get enough of this everywhere else? There's been soooooooo many books like this over the years, only really written to force-feed a singular opinion of something, while cashing in on it. It's propaganda. I'm not saying the message isn't good, but really who cares? This could've been a text jpg, or a 3 minute Youtube clip, to get the same lame point across. I read to be entertained or learn, not "look what I did, now you do it" garbage.
Date published: 2017-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important Reading, once read, you will have a responsibility , , , , , to now pass this book on to those that are sympathetic to justice and the value of human life. Personally, I passed my copy on to my son and I purchased a second for my daughter @ Christmas. Read - absorb - become knowledgeable - develop sensitivity - share.
Date published: 2015-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A poignant true story about life and war that will grab your heart Dr Abuelaish recounts his compelling story in the first person without self-pity which makes his words heart-breaking but inspiring. Hands-down my favourite book this year even though it made me weep. Delivering a profound message of co-existence, it is well written and provides powerful and often agonizing insights. My understanding of Gaza and Israel is enriched. If leaders of powerful nations were to read this book, the world might be a kinder place.
Date published: 2014-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I shall not hate review I picked this book up 4 days ago and I wasn't able put it down in those 4 days. This book is a prime example of what humans are capable of in the most turmoil of situations. This book is inspiring, i will be passing it on to all of my friends to read. Thank you.
Date published: 2014-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible!! This is a must read! This mans story is an incredible one of strength, courage, wisdom, and forgiveness. I cannot say enough good things about this book!
Date published: 2014-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I Shall Not Hate An inspiration to all of us and a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to get to know and understand our neighbours so that we can build bridges instead if barriers.
Date published: 2013-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Humanitarian In answering a question about seeking revenge for a horrible wrong, the great humanitarian, Mahatma Ghandi said “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” The world has watched in either in angst or cold detachment at the never-ending eye for an eye conflict impacting the people of Israel and Palestine, a turmoil that does not appear to be solvable by politicians. From afar, it appears this conflict will not end until the whole world is blind. After reading “I Shall Not Hate”, my perspective has changed, and I now think hope will prevail. This hope for peace is not based in the words or deeds by political leaders, but from examples of the Palestinian and Israeli people themselves, such as Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish (and his Israeli and Palestinian friends and supporters), and their efforts to create a peace through education, understanding and taking peaceful action. In this memoir, Izzeldin Abuelaish tells his fascinating story, from his birth in a Gaza refugee camp, his youth and overcoming poverty to becoming a doctor living in Gaza, and working in a hospital in Israel. 2009 was a year of anguish, with Dr. Abuelaish losing his wife to cancer, and then having three of his eight children taken away by unnecessary tank shelling. If you have viewed the Israeli-Palestine conflict in a state of cold detachment, there is another reason to read “I Shall Not Hate”. The book helped improve my understanding of the situation impacting Palestine and Israel, but the story also engages emotions, tugging on the heart strings for empathy and compassion. The narrative is riveting, especially the sequence of detail during January 2009 events, when the Israelis launched a 23 day assault on the Gaza strip. A warning to the reader, it is hard to even imagine the horror this man must have felt on the evening of January 16, 2009 when an Israeli tank shelled the apartment where the Abuelaish family lived, killing three of his daughters, Bissan, Mayar, and Aya, and his niece Noor, in their bedroom. Another daughter, Shatha, was badly injured. The post blast description of the bedroom is graphic and emotive. Dr. Abuelaish is a remarkable man of commitment and courage. His reaffirmation of faith, after the death of his daughters, and his new commitment to give meaning to their lives after their passing, with messages and life lessons on forgiveness, hope and love, is truly heroic. Mahatma Ghandi also said “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” There are no stronger humans than Izzeldin Abuelaish. Dr. Abuelaish lays out some ways for us all to get involved in the peace process. In honour of his daughters, he has established a new Foundation, “Daughters for Life”, an organization that will provide scholarships for girls and women living in the Middle East.
Date published: 2011-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tragic & Heartbreaking! Such horrific tragedy has been bestowed upon this family living in the Gaza Strip. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish lost his wife to leukemia, three of his daughters and a neice in a bombing of his home and suffered irreparable grief. The story is heartbreaking is asad and full of struggle and pain. However, it is Dr. Abuelaish’s response to the loss of his children that made news and headlines around the world as well as winning him humanitarian awards. Most people would seek revenge in this instance but not Dr. Abuelaish, instead he called for the people of the Middle East to begin talking to each other, to learn to settle things and treat each other as they are, brothers in humanity. Palestinian, Israeli, Egyptian, Jewish or whatever does not matter, we are all human with the same feelings and emotions. Dr. Abuelaish’s biggest wish is that his daughters will be the LAST sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. This is a book that we can ALL learn something from. If YOU think YOU have a hard life, read this book and see how deeply ashamed you feel for complaining. My wish is for Dr. Abuelaish’s wishes to come true, that peace will be restored in the Middle East and with that the knowledge that his daughter’s did not die in vain.
Date published: 2011-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Testament to one man's belief in the human family As an expat living in the Middle East I found this book to be a testament to the will and fogiveness that Dr. Abuelaish has for those who have taken much away from him and his family. Perhaps we need to bring people with likeminded convictions together with the leaders of the area and perhaps we can begin to put to rest the mistrust and hatred that brews here. To Dr. Abuelaish and his family you are a wonderful example of a true close knit family and I am very glad you have come to stay in Canada. Mabrook!
Date published: 2010-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking I honestly don't think I could or would have the same outlook on things as Mr. Abuelaish. I can't imagine going through an ordeal like that and not hating the people who did it. Izzeldin is a very strong and corageous human being. This book was heartbreaking.
Date published: 2010-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Amazing Person Definitely a must read for those interested in the middle-east conflict. I was truly amazed by the integrity and humanity of Dr. Abuelaish and how he was able to turn horrible tragedy into something positive. If only more people thought like him, the world would be a much better place!
Date published: 2010-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truely inspiring! This book made me believe that peace and co-existance can happen.
Date published: 2010-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Transforming, Eye Opening, Touching From the moment I picked up this book I knew it would be magical. By the end of the book I was truly transformed. Not only is this book a lesson in history, but also it forces the reader to look beyond race & religion to see & feel the human side of life, loss, death, war and destruction. To read this book and not feel anything is abnormal. I recommend that you read it, take in every line, every word, then recommend it to someone else. This book deserves to be read and this story needs to be told. Truly magnificent.
Date published: 2010-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An eye opener If there were more Palestenians and Israelis like Izzeldin, we would have already had peace. In spite of his personal suffering as a result of this conflict, he still chooses to believe in the goodness of people and that the desire for peace will ultimately triumph over hate. This book will make you aware of how difficult life is for the Gaza refugees. It also presents an unbiased snapshot of the daily interaction between Palestenians and Israelis.
Date published: 2010-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life inspiring I myself am in the process of becoming a doctor. People have asked me why I want to be a doctor as they have long hours an sacrifice so much in their lives to help others. For me it has always been about helping others, about preventing another family from a loss which possibly with my help has been prevented. After reading this book I feel more inspired to help others than I ever thought possible. Through sharing his life's journey with the world, he brings hope to the future of not only his home country but to all countries at odds with each other. He heals without prejudice which even for doctors can be difficult to do. I praise him for teaching his children to think of themselves as world citizens and not just as people with a certain citizenship. Bless you for your words and you truly kind spirit. If I can be 1/8 of the doctor and person you are I will be content in my life.
Date published: 2010-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Book Of Love In this book you will find a man who can show you love for his Family, Palestinians, all humans and even Israelis’. You can feel it in his writing. I do not think this man can hate. He will tell you that hate is a disease and it can consume you. What more could be true?
Date published: 2010-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring - A must read! The story of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish's life is inspiring! A must read for anyone who wishes to see an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not only did this book provide me with a better understanding of the situation facing the people in Gaza, this book made me believe in peace. Dr. Abuelaish is the Ghandi of the Palestinian people.
Date published: 2010-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I Shall Not Hate will touch your heart deeply Every once in a long while you come across a book that touches your heart so deeply you will always remember where you were when you read it. And well after you turn the last page, the story will remain with you – imprinting a message that in some small way changes how you see the world. I Shall Not Hate, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s personal memoir, is one such story. Born into abject poverty in the Gaza strip, Abuelaish fought every spirit-breaking condition put in front of him to become a highly trained and internationally respected physician and infertility expert. He financed much of his education working summers on farms just across the Gaza border in Ashkelon where deep and unexpected friendships shaped his belief that Palestinians and Israelis are inherently connected, as are brothers and cousins, destined to share a history and a land forever. As a physician living in Gaza but practicing in an Israeli hospital, his optimistic and brave view of a future where both people live in peace was often tested as he submitted to checkpoint searches and saw firsthand the impact of the deadly cycle of action and reaction. Still he invested his energy building bridges between both sides, one patient, one relationship, one meeting at a time. And then, just after losing his wife to cancer, the unthinkable happened. Shelling into Israel provoked a full scale operation by the Israeli Defense Force into Gaza. Dr. Abuelaish was at home with his eight children when shells struck, killing three of his eight children as well as a niece. A fourth daughter was badly injured. The news of this horrific event was televised almost instantly when Abuelaish reached out to an Israeli friend and on air journalist. Hours later, and due directly to this specific event, the 5 day battle was over and the Doctor’s injured daughter was rushed to an Israeli hospital. Few people in the world today have a better, more richly etched perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian situation than Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Few could have as much reason to be angry, disillusioned or combative. But such is not his story. I Shall Not Hate is his story. Unshakeable courage, optimism, and belief in the healing power of love is his story. Currently a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Abuelaish believes that only understanding and respect between Palestinians and Israelis will make sense of the deaths of his beloved daughters. It is his intention to do all within his power to make this a reality. This book, penned from his heart, with grace and insight, is his way of engaging us all in this quest.
Date published: 2010-05-14

Read from the Book

OneSand and Sky  It was as close to heaven and as far from hell as I could get that day, an isolated stretch of beach just four kilometres from the misery of Gaza City, where waves roll up on the shore as if to wash away yesterday and leave a fresh start for tomorrow. We probably looked like any other family at the beach—my two sons and six daughters, a few cousins and uncles and aunts—the kids frolicking in the water, drawing their names in the sand, calling to each other over the onshore winds. But like most things in the Middle East, this picture-perfect gathering was not what it seemed. I’d brought the family to the beach to find some peace in the middle of our grief. It was December 12, 2008, just twelve short weeks since my wife Nadia had died from acute leukemia, leaving our eight children motherless, the youngest of them, our son Abdullah, only six years old. She’d been diagnosed and then died in only two weeks. Her death left us shocked, dazed and wobbling with the sudden loss of the equilibrium she had always provided. I had to bring the family together, away from the noise and chaos of Jabalia City where we lived, to find privacy for all of us to remember and to strengthen the ties that bind us one to the other. The day was cool, the December sky whitewashed by a pale winter sun, the Mediterranean a pure azure blue. But even as I watched these sons and daughters of mine playing in the surf, looking like joyful children playing anywhere, I was apprehensive about our future and the future of our region. But even I did not imagine how our personal tragedy was about to multiply many times over. People were rumbling about impending military action. For several years, the Israelis had been bombing the smugglers’ tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, but recently the attacks had become more frequent. Ever since the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit had been captured by a group of Islamic militants in June 2006, a blockade had been put in place, presumably to punish the Palestinian people as a whole for the actions of the few. But now the blockade was even tighter, and the tunnels were the only way most items got into the Gaza Strip. Every time they were bombed, they had been rebuilt, and then Israel would bomb them again. Adding to the isolation, the three crossings from Israel and Egypt into Gaza had been closed to the media for six months, a sign that the Israelis didn’t want anyone knowing what was going on. You could feel the tension in the air.  Most of the world has heard of the Gaza Strip. But few know what it’s like to live here, blockaded and impoverished, year after year, decade after decade, watching while promises are broken and opportunities are lost. According to the United Nations, the Gaza Strip has the highest population density in the world. The majority of its approximately 1.5 million residents are Palestinian refugees, many of whom have been living in refugee camps for decades; 80 percent of us are estimated to be living in poverty. Our schools are overcrowded, and there isn’t enough money to pave the roads or supply the hospitals. The eight refugee camps and the cities—Gaza City and Jabalia City—which make up Gaza, are noisy, crowded, dirty. One refugee camp, the Beach camp in western Gaza City, houses more than 81,000 people in less than one square kilometre. But still, if you listen hard enough, even in the camps you can hear the heartbeat of the Palestinian nation. People should understand that Palestinians don’t live for themselves alone. They live for each other and support each other. What I do for myself and my children, I also do for my brothers and sisters and their children. My salary is for all of my family. We are a community. The spirit of Gaza is in the cafés where narghile-smoking patrons discuss the latest political news; it’s in the crowded alleyways where children play; in the markets where women shop then rush back to their families; in the words of the old men shuffling along the broken streets to meet their friends, fingering their worry beads and regretting the losses of the past. At first glance you might think everyone is in a hurry—heads down, no eye contact as people move from place to place—but these are the gestures of angry people who have been coerced, neglected, oppressed. Thick, unrelenting oppression touches every single aspect of life in Gaza, from the graffiti on the walls of the cities and towns to the unsmiling elderly, the unemployed young men crowding the streets and the children—that December day, my own—seeking relief in play at the beach. This is my Gaza: Israeli gunships on the horizon, helicopters overhead, the airless smugglers’ tunnels into Egypt, UN relief trucks on the roadways, smashed buildings and corroding infrastructure. There is never enough—not enough cooking oil, not enough fresh fruit or water. Never ever enough. So easily do allegiances switch inside Gaza that it’s sometimes hard to know who is in charge, whom to hold responsible: Israel, the international community, Fatah, Hamas, the gangs, the religious fundamentalists. Most blame the Israelis, the United States, history. Gaza is a human time bomb in the process of imploding. All through 2008 there were warning signs that the world ignored. The election of Hamas in January 2006 increased the tension between Israelis and Palestinians, as did the sporadic firing of Qassam rockets into Israel and the sanctions imposed on Palestinians as a result by the international community. The rockets—homemade, most often missing their targets—spoke the language of desperation. They invited overreaction by the Israeli army and retaliatory rocket attacks from helicopter gunships that rained down death and destruction on Palestinians, often defenceless children. That in turn set the stage for more Qassam rockets—and the cycle kept repeating itself. As a physician, I would describe this cycle of taunting and bullying as a form of self-destructive behaviour that arises when a situation is viewed as hopeless. Everything is denied to us in Gaza. The response to each of our desires and needs is, “No.” No gas, no electricity, no exit visa. No to your children, no to life. Even the well-educated can’t cope; there are more postgraduates and university graduates per capita here in Gaza than in most places on earth, but their socio-economic life doesn’t match their education level because of poverty, closed borders, unemployment and substandard housing. People cannot survive, cannot live a normal life, and as a result extremism has been on the rise. It is psychologically natural to seek revenge in the face of relentless suffering. You can’t expect an unhealthy person to think logically. Almost everyone here has psychiatric problems of one sort or another; everyone needs rehabilitation. But no help is available to ease the tension. This para-suicidal behaviour—the launching of rockets, the suicide bombings—invites counterattacks by the Israelis and then revenge from the Gazans, which leads to an even more disproportionate response from the Israelis. And on it goes. More than half the people in Gaza are under the age of eighteen; that’s a lot of angry, disenfranchised young people. Teachers report behaviour problems in the schools—conduct that’s related to war and violence. Violence against women has escalated in the last ten years, as it always does during conflict. Unemployment and the related feelings of frustration and helplessness create a breed of people who are ready to take action because they feel they have nothing to lose—and worse, nothing to save. They’re trying to get the attention of the people outside our closed borders. Their rallying cry is, “Look over here, the level of suffering in this place has to stop.” But how can Gazans attract the attention of the international community? Even humanitarian aid organizations depend on permission from Israel to enter and leave the Gaza Strip. The acts of violence committed by the Palestinians are expressions of the frustration and rage of a people who feel impotent and hopeless. The primitive and cheap Qassam is actually the most expensive rocket in the world when you consider the consequences it creates on both sides of the divide.  I’ve lived with this tension in various degrees for my whole life, and have always done my utmost to succeed despite the limits our circumstances imposed on us. I was born in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza in 1955, the oldest of six brothers and three sisters, and our lives were never easy. But even as a child I always had hope for a better tomorrow. Through hard work and constant striving, and the rewards that come to a believer, I became a doctor. I went to medical school in Cairo then did a diploma in obstetrics and gynecology with the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of London. Later, beginning in June 1997, I undertook a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Soroka hospital in Israel. Then I studied fetal medicine and genetics at the V. Buzzi hospital in Milan, Italy, and the Erasme Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, and became an infertility specialist. After that I realized that if I was going to make a larger difference for the Palestinian people, I needed management and policy-making skills, so I enrolled in a masters program in Public Health (Health Policy and Management) at Harvard University. Now I am working as a senior researcher at the Gertner Institute in the Sheba hospital in Israel. All of my adult life I have had one leg in Palestine and the other in Israel, an unusual path in this region. Whether delivering babies, helping a couple overcome infertility or researching the effect of health care on poor populations versus rich ones, or the impact on populations with access to medical help versus populations without access, I have long felt that medicine can bridge the divide between people and that doctors can be messengers of peace. I didn’t arrive at this conclusion lightly. I was born in a refugee camp, grew up as a refugee and have submitted myself on a weekly basis to the humiliation of checkpoints and the frustrations and endless delays that come with crossing into and out of Gaza. But I maintain that revenge and counter-revenge is suicidal, that mutual respect, equality and coexistence is the only reasonable way forward, and I firmly believe that the vast majority of people who live in this region agree with me. Even though I could feel immense trouble coming our way—an even broader threat to our sense of security than Nadia’s death—these ideas were playing on my mind as I watched my children romping in the waves. I chose this date—December 12—to bring them here because it followed hajj, one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar; it was a time to reflect, to pray, to gather the family together. Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that takes place between the seventh and twelfth days of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar. This is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world; every able-bodied Muslim is required to make the trip at least once in his or her lifetime. Whether you go to Mecca or not, Waqfat Arafat is the Islamic observance day during hajj in which pilgrims pray for forgiveness and mercy. It’s the first of the three days of Eid al-Adha that mark the end of hajj. In Mecca, pilgrims stay awake all night to pray on the hill of Arafat, the site where Muhammad delivered his last sermon. For the millions of Muslims, my family included, who do not go to Mecca each year, bowing to the Alkebla in the east, falling to your knees and praying the prayers of the believer is sufficient. On the second day we mark the Feast of Sacrifice: the most important feast of Islam. It recalls Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, and commemorates God’s forgiveness. Everyone observes the day by wearing their finest clothing and going to the mosque for Eid prayers. Those who can afford to do so sacrifice their best domestic animals, such as a sheep or a cow, as a symbol of Abraham’s sacrifice. We observed the prayer day in Jabalia Camp with our relatives and went to the cemetery at the camp to pray for Nadia. I’d bought a sheep and had it sacrificed, donated two-thirds of the animal to the poor and needy, as is the observance, and had some of the rest of the animal made into kebabs for a barbecue at the beach to mark the final day of Eid. We got up early the next morning, made sandwiches and packed a picnic, and at seven a.m. we all climbed into my car—a 1986 Subaru—and set out. Before we got to the beach, I had another treat for my children. In early December I’d bought a small olive grove, maybe a thousand square metres in size and half a kilometre from the beach. It was like a little piece of Shangri-La, separated from the hurly-burly by a three-metre fence, a place where we could be together, a place where maybe we could build a little house one day. I’d kept it a secret until I could show them. As they tumbled out of the car, the kids were surprised and delighted with this unlikely piece of utopia on the outskirts of Gaza, with its olive trees, grapevines, fig and apricot trees. They explored every corner, marvelled at the tidy rows of trees, and happily chased each other through the undergrowth until I reminded them that there was work to be done. We all dug into the task of tidying up the place, which was a little neglected and needed weeding. Even though they had known nothing but life in the crowded confines of the Gaza Strip for most of their lives, my children—the descendants of generations of farmers—seemed at home here. After we had done enough work, we retreated to a small area of the grove bordered by a line of cinder blocks and shaded by an arbour of grapevines. We spread mats and made a small fire from the twigs and brush we’d cleared from the olive trees, and sat in the shade of the vines eating our falafel sandwiches and talking about the events of our family life—the loss of my wife, their mother, a change so enormous we were still, four months later, trying to come to terms with it. I also needed to talk to them about another significant surprise. Recently I’d been offered a chance to work at a hospital in Canada. Except for a brief stay in Saudi Arabia, where Bessan and Dalal were born, the family had never lived anywhere but Gaza. Moving to Toronto would be a monumental change, maybe even too overwhelming so soon after their mother died. When I told them about the opportunity, Aya said, “I want to fly, Daddy.” So I knew at least one of them was willing to leave everything behind—our home, the uncles, the aunts and cousins, the friends—and start over in a new country. Soon the others had also agreed: together we would go to Canada, not forever, but for a while. The older girls, 21-year-old Bessan, Dalal, 20, and Shatha, 17, would attend the University of Toronto; the younger ones, Mayar, 15, Aya, 14, Mohammed, 13, Raffah, 10, and Abdullah, 6, would go to public school in Canada. There would be many challenges: attending classes in English, experiencing a Canadian winter, learning about a different culture. But we would also be out of the constant tension of Gaza; they’d be safe. These eight children had seemed to be adrift, even in our home, without their mother. This change would be good for them. Together, we’d manage. I could see the excitement on their faces and my old optimism returned for the first time in months. After the family discussion ended and we had cleared away our meal, the kids were anxious to get to the beach. Fifteen of us—if you counted the cousins and uncles—followed the rutted path up a small hill and through a meadow that led from the olive grove to the water. We walked all together, our group changing shape every few metres as one child ran ahead and two others stopped to examine an object on the path and three girls walking together became five, arms linked. But eventually we made it to the sand. Despite the cool day, the children ran straight for the water, where they swam and splashed each other for hours, taking breaks to play in the sand. These children of mine—my offspring, my progeny—were the joy of my life. And they’d meant the world to Nadia. I’d known Nadia’s family before we were married in 1987, when she was twenty-four and I was thirty-two. It was an arranged marriage, as is the custom in our culture, but of the young women my family arranged for me to meet, Nadia seemed the most suitable. She was a quiet, intelligent woman who had studied to become a dental technician in Ramallah, on the West Bank. Our families rejoiced at our union but were not as happy when we left Gaza almost immediately after our marriage for Saudi Arabia, where I had been working as a general practitioner. Nadia, too, felt the anxiety of dislocation. Though Bessan and Dalal were born there, Nadia never adjusted to living in Saudi Arabia, never felt that she belonged. The customs were different to the ones we were used to, and she keenly felt the separation from our extended family and wanted to return home, which we eventually did in 1991. I travelled a lot after we settled again in Gaza—to Africa and Afghanistan for work and to Belgium and the United States for more medical training—but Nadia stayed at home with the children. We were a very traditional family, surrounded by my brothers and their families as well as my mother, who lived next door, and Nadia’s mother and father, who lived nearby. Since I had to be away quite often, both Nadia and I felt the need to be close to other family members. She never complained about my frequent absences during the twenty-two years we were married. I could never have studied at Harvard or worked for the World Health Organization in Kabul, Afghanistan, or even done my obstetrics and gynecology residency in Israel, without the support she gave me. It seemed surreal that she was gone. I watched my children and wondered what would become of them without their beloved mother. How does anyone come to terms with this sort of pain? In the weeks since Nadia died, Bessan, our first-born, my oldest daughter, had assumed the role of mother as well as older sister. It was a particular relief this day to see her dashing into the sea, the surf soaking her jeans, her laughter carried away on the wind. She was a remarkable girl, my Bessan. She was on track to graduate from the Islamic University in Gaza at the end of the academic year with a business degree. She seemed to be able to handle anything: mothering the children, taking care of the house, getting high marks at school. Since her mother died, though, she’d begun to see that exams are the easiest part, that there were other, harsher realities. It was a lot for a twenty-one-year-old to bear. Dalal, my second-oldest daughter, was named after my mother. She was a second-year student at the same university as Bessan, where she was studying architectural engineering. She was a quiet, studious girl, shy like most of my daughters. Her architectural drawings were remarkable to me—a sign of the precision she demanded of herself. Shatha was in her last year of high school and hoping to score the top marks in the class when they wrote their exams in June so she could fulfill her dream to become an engineer. The three girls were best friends and slept in the same room of our house in Jabalia City, a five-storey building that my brothers and I had built. Each of us had a floor for his family; my children and I lived on the third floor. One brother lived apart from us in a separate house. He’d had his own house in Jabalia Camp, and when we constructed the apartment building, he said he wanted to be near but in his own place. So we built another house for him. (My sixth brother, Noor, had become caught up in the conflict of the region, and has been missing for decades.) Mayar and Aya, who were in grades nine and eight, were almost painfully shy. Sometimes they even asked one of their older sisters to speak to the others for them. But they were clever girls. Mayar looked the most like her mother, and she was the top math student in her school. She entered school competitions here in Gaza and usually won. She wanted to be a doctor like me. She was the quietest of my six daughters, but she was not shy about describing the impact the strife in Gaza had on the people who live here. She once said, “When I grow up and become a mother, I want my kids to live in a reality where the word rocket is just another name for a space shuttle.” Aya was never far from Mayar. She was a very active, beautiful child who smiled easily and laughed a lot when she was with her sisters. She wanted to be a journalist and was very determined in her own quiet way. If she couldn’t get what she wanted from me—permission to go to visit a relative or to buy a new dress—she’d go to her mother and say, “We are the daughters of the doctor; you must give this to us.” Aya loved language, excelled in Arabic literature. She was the poet in the family. Raffah, my daughter with eyes as bright as stars, was an outgoing child, inquisitive, rambunctious and gleeful. She was in grade four this year. Mohammed was a young man of thirteen. He needed the guidance of a father, and I was worried about that because I was away four days a week, working at the Sheba hospital in Tel Aviv. He was to write the grade seven exams in June. His little brother Abdullah, in grade one, was the baby of the family. Watching him running to his sisters on the beach, kicking up the sand as he bounded over the dunes, I felt a special pain for this motherless boy: how much would he remember her? That day they all sat for photos beside their names in the sand. Even Aya and Mayar smiled into the camera. When the tide came in and washed their names away, they wrote them again, higher on the beach. They rushed from playing in the surf and riding the waves to climbing into a boat that was moored on the beach, from building pyramids in the sand to racing back into the water—the camera click, click, clicking, recording the jubilance of my eight children. I watched them, thinking, “Let them play, let them escape from their grief.” While they cavorted on the dunes, I drove back to Jabalia Camp to fetch the kebabs. There’d been such a long lineup at the butcher early that morning, I’d decided to go to the beach and return for the meat once the children were settled. While driving, I thought about Nadia and the changes in our lives since she had died. At first I’d believed that I would have to stop the research work I was doing, since it required me to be in Tel Aviv from Monday to Thursday. But the children insisted that I continue. They said, “We’ll take care of everything at home. Don’t worry.” It was the way Nadia had raised them. She was the example they were following. Nadia managed the house, the children, the extended family, everything, while I went away to study, to work, to try to make a better life for all of us. Sometimes I was away for three months. When I studied public health at Harvard from 2003 to 2004, I was gone for a year. But how could these children manage without a mother if their father was away more than half the time, even though they all told me that I needed to go on? This is why I was so happy they had agreed to move to Toronto: there we could all be together, with no border to cross every day. And while we were in Canada, this place would be waiting for us. There’s something eternal about olive, fig and apricot trees, a piece of land that’s near a beach where the sky meets the sea and the sand, where whitecaps break as waves roll up to the shore, where the surf rides high on the beach and the laughter of children soars on the wind. The ringing of my cellphone brought me out of my reverie. It was Bessan, teasing me, saying, “Where is my father with the kebabs? Our stomachs are fighting. We need food.” I told her I was on my way and they should go back in the olive grove and get the hibachi started. Later, we feasted on the kebabs, told more stories, and then returned to the beach for one last walk before the setting sun sent us home.  The strife of Gaza has been the backdrop of my children’s whole lives, though I have tried my best to make sure that their experiences growing up have been less traumatic than my own. But I remember clearly how grateful I was that day for the chance to get them out of there for a while, to fly them away with me before more trouble came our way. My daughters had heard me speaking about coexistence throughout their lives. Three of them—Bessan, Dalal and Shatha—had attended the Creativity for Peace Camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that is run by Israeli and Palestinian coordinators. One of the coordinators, Anael Harpaz, told me she sees the youth of the region as the antidote that can counteract sixty years of acrimony. I wanted my daughters to meet Israeli girls and to spend time with them in a neutral setting in order to discover the ties that may bind and heal our mutual wounds. Getting the paperwork for the girls to leave Gaza for the United States was a monumental task, as Gazans cannot leave the Strip without permission from Israel. But this was an experience I desperately wanted my children to have, to see that people can live together, can find ways to cooperate and to make peace with each other. Bessan went to the camp twice. The others had one visit each. Bessan was the only one of my children to have met Israelis before going to the peace camp. In 2005, she had joined a small group of five young women from both sides of the conflict for a road trip across America. Their leader, Deborah Sugerman, took them in a van along with a cameraman to record their views on a multi-state visit that was supposed to promote dialogue, create an understanding of each other’s point of view, break down barriers between enemy cultures and build bridges over the huge, complicated problems that existed between the two sides. There were no easy answers during a journey that was layered with forgiveness, friendship, sorrow and hope. Their conversations and activities were filmed for a documentary entitled Dear Mr. President, and the girls hoped to meet President George W. Bush to enlist his support for the work they were doing. For me, it was an example of what most families in the region want, most teenagers, most scholars: to find a way through the morass in order to live side by side. Some of the comments Bessan made in the film have stayed with me: “There is more than one way to solve a problem. To meet terrorism with terrorism or violence with violence doesn’t solve anything.” She also admitted that it’s hard to forget what has happened here, the humiliation, the oppression of being basically imprisoned in Gaza and denied basic rights; that hurt of injustice lingers. “All problems can be solved by forgiving the past and looking toward the future, but for this problem it’s hard to forget the past.” Near the beginning of the documentary she says, “We think as enemies, we live on opposite sides and never meet. But I feel we are all the same. We are all human beings.” I’d been straddling the line in the sand dividing Palestinians and Israelis for as long as I could remember, even as a fourteen-year-old when I worked for an Israeli farm family for the summer and discovered that they were as human as me. As I watched the children on the beach that day, I saw the points in my life where I had crossed a line in the sand drawn by circumstances, by politics, by the ever-present enmity of two peoples. The abject poverty I lived in as a child, the opportunities I created through my performance at school, the Six Day War that altered my thinking—all of these and other crossings have shaped my life. From the time I was a very small boy I had been able to find the good piece of the bad story, and that was always the attitude I tried to bring to the considerable obstacles that have challenged me, and it was how I managed to move from one crossing to another. It seemed to me that I’d gathered strength from one to prepare for the next. We stayed at the seaside until our shadows were casting six-metre silhouettes onto the sand. Then we went back to the olive grove, packed up our belongings, and the children bundled into the cars my brothers and I had driven that day for the short journey home. Laughing about the day’s events, mimicking and teasing each other as children do, the older ones looking out for the younger ones, they were bound together like rolls of twine in the back seats of the cars. As I drove, I listened to them chattering away, and I thought to myself, “We are getting there—they will be okay. Together, we can do this.” Exactly thirty-four days later, on January 16 at 4:45 p.m., an Israeli rocket was fired into the girls’ bedroom, followed swiftly by another. In seconds, my beloved Bessan, my sweet shy Aya and my clever and thoughtful Mayar were dead, and so was their cousin Noor. Shatha and her cousin Ghaida were gravely wounded. Shrapnel in his back felled my brother Nasser, but he survived. The aftermath was carried live on Israeli television. Because the Israeli military had forbidden access to journalists and everyone wanted to know what was happening in Gaza, I had been doing daily interviews with Shlomi Eldar, the anchorman on Israel’s Channel 10. I had been scheduled to do one that afternoon. Minutes after the attack occurred, I called him at the TV station; he was doing the live newscast and he took the call on air. The footage shot around the world and showed up on YouTube and in the blogosphere. Nomika Zion, an Israeli woman from Sderot, the town that is on the receiving end of Qassam rockets, said: “The Palestinian pain, which the majority of Israeli society doesn’t want to see, had a voice and a face. The invisible became visible. For one moment it wasn’t just the enemy—an enormous dark demon who is so easy and convenient to hate. There was one man, one story, one tragedy and so much pain.” This is what happened to me, to my daughters, to Gaza. This is my story.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Sally Armstrong
Introduction by Dr. Marek Glezerman
One Sand and Sky
Two Refugee Childhood
Three Finding My Way
Four Hearts and Minds
Five Loss
Six Attack
Seven Aftermath

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

NATIONAL BESTSELLERA Globe and Mail Best BookHeather’s Pick"In this book, Doctor Abuelaish has expressed a remarkable commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation that describes the foundation for a permanent peace in the Holy Land."  — President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize laureate"It is impossible to read this book without feeling deep compassion for Abuelaish and his surviving children, and profound respect for his determination to turn tragedy into triumph."  — Winnipeg Free Press“A passionate human cry for peace and understanding.”  — Jonathan Garfinkel, The Globe and Mail (Best Book)“This story is a necessary lesson against hatred and revenge.”  — Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate “Powerful. . . . Moving. . . . Abuelaish does not attempt to set out a political solution to the conflict. He simply tells his own story, with clarity and a humanity of vision.”  — The Gazette “A vivid, haunting and all but heartbreaking account. . . . Fast-paced, skillfully organized and highly evocative.” — Toronto Star “Unshakeable courage, optimism and belief in the healing power of love is [Abuelaish’s] story. . . . This book, penned from the heart, with grace and insight, is his way of engaging us all in this quest [to create peace between Israelis and Palestinians].”  — Heather Reisman, Heather’s Pick