Forgiveness is in short supply in this world. It’s a nice idea but it’s hard to be forgiving. I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity is a gentle memoir about forgiveness and perseverance, set in arguably one of the most unforgiving and hostile environments in the world – Israel. Or Palestine. Depending on your views.
The author, Palestinian Muslim and medical doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish, knows loss and hardship. He lost his three teenage daughters when a tank shell hit their home during a Israeli military offensive targeting their neighbourhood in the Occupied Territories.
Somehow, he’s managed to reject any bitter and wrathful feelings toward the Israeli military and the state of Israel in general, and maintain a hopeful vision for the future. Izzeldin is a medical professional who’s worked in Israeli hospitals, alongside loyal Israeli colleagues, who share common concern for reproductive health and children’s well-being.
Written chronologically, Dr Abuelaish recounts his early years beginning with his birth in a Gaza refugee camp. Then the story moves us along the road to studying medicine in Egypt, London and Harvard. A path which was paved with ongoing hardship, hard work, and sometimes, sheer luck. Almost every aspect of daily life was hampered – and this made his attempts at educational and economic mobility almost impossible.
Palestinians are used to negotiating labyrinthine checkpoints, bizarre and ever-changing regulations, and regular bureaucratic barrages. And it was no different for Mr Abuelaish during his academic pursuits. Somehow he managed to maintain his composure and sanity, and come out the other end as a highly regarded medical professional and the first Palestinian to work in an Israeli hospital treating Christian, Jewish and Muslim children. Really quite miraculous.
The military assault on his family home comes in a sort of looming climax that you anticipate as you begin reading from the start (after reading the synopsis on the back of the book!).
Despite the seemingly insurmountable hardships, its not a bitter or angry recollection and commentary, but a book which seeks a realistic and progressive (not aggressive) future in Palestinian/Israeli relations. Naturally the narrative is infused with personal impressions, experiences and details of family and community life which is written in such a way that makes you feel like you connect somehow. This animates his story and the stories of other Palestinians and Israelis.
Some might say he’s a dreamer, but so far it seems to be working for him as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and highly regarded medical professional. You decide.
Quite the tear jerker. Check it out.