Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam


By Rhonda Spivak

“Hate and revenge is a disease, but I am a doctor whose job is to heal…I do not want to be full of hatred. It is a toxin that must be purified.”

This powerful message was delivered by  Gazan obstetrician and gynocologist, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Dr. Abuelaish, treated both Palestinian and Israeli patients in Israeli hospitals for many years before  a  horrific tragedy befell him in  last year’s Israeli assault on Gaza launched in response to  rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas militants.

On January 16, 2009 Dr. Abuelaish’s  urgent pleas for help were captured by Israeli television and broadcast around the world , after three of his “precious” daughters and a niece died  when  Israeli tank shells shattered his house in the Jabalia refugee camp. A fourth daughter and niece were severely injured.

Dr Abuelaish,  who was nominated by Belgium for the  2010 Nobel Peace Prize, delivered the Sol Kanee Lecture  of the Arthur Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice at the University of Manitoba on November 2 before a large crowd who gave him a standing ovation following his presentation.

 Dr. Abuelaish,  has said all that of his life he has worked as a doctor “with one leg in Israel and one  leg in Gaza”, in order to serve as a model of co-existence.

He recounted that as  he looked at “the blood bath”   of his “decapitated” daughters,   he  began  to understand  why  “God planned” for his  wife  to die of cancer three months earlier.

“I am a believer with great faith…God is good. He did not want her to see her three daughters killed before her eyes,” he said, fighting back tears.

Dr. Abuelish, said  that  his 13 year old son, Mohammed  told him after the horrific loss that “My sisters are with my mom. Mom has asked for them.”

 The doctor explained that Israeli television was on the scene on the day in question because he was scheduled to interview him about “issues of women’s health.”

Although the Israel Defense Forces initially claimed that Hamas militants were firing from the house, Abuelish said, later the I.D.F “announced its responsibility (for) the shelling of my house.”
He said that the fact that his story was captured live on television had served to “disclose a secret,” to the world, showing “the craziness and prejudice that was practiced against Gazan civilians.”

Prior to the tragedy, Dr. Abuelish  had received offers to work at the  University of Toronto as well as the University of  Haifa in Israel. Despite his tremendous suffering, Dr. Abuelish, has decided, to continue  conducting “joint research with my Israeli colleagues” at the University of Haifa, while he is now working and living in Toronto.

“If we [ Israelis and Palestinians] want to have better lives, we need to work together jointly,” he said.

He explained that his personal tragedy had  motivated him to take steps to “ achieve justice,” and noted that although he “could never get back” what he lost, he  “still had to move forward,” since “I am blessed with five other children and a future.”

In his address, Dr. Abuelish said “I hope a day will come when there is a Palestinian state  living side by side an Israeli state,”  and referred to these “two independent states” as “living in partnership.”

During the question period, he said that reconciliation  would require a “joint effort between Israelis and Palestinians,” and said  that “I   understand Israeli needs and their fears…”

As he noted, “Every coin has two sides.”

When asked during the question period, whether he  would favour a “one state solution” [ for the area that now comprises Israel, the West Bank and Gaza],  he responded that  the solution could be “ a one state or two state or whatever” and   then said “I don’t mind a one state.” 

While he expressed  criticism  of the Netanyahu government for not actively pursuing peace, he also said  “Palestinians must stop any violent actions” and unequivocally condemned violence.

He criticized Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.  “He came to visit Israelis injured in the war who were in Tel-Aviv’s  [Tel Hashomer] hospital, but he didn’t come to visit my daughter and niece who were being treated there in that hospital [where Dr. Abeulaish used to work].”

Dr. Abuelaish recounted how he decided to go hear Barak speak  in Prague.  “I sat in the front line and Barak started to wave to me.  He  knew me.  But afterwards he left without speaking to me.  Twenty minutes later he came back to talk to me. ..I said the meeting was supposed to have been in Tel-Aviv [at the hospital], but never mind, it’s not too late.   Once we communicate, we build trust…we must face each other and express our fears…”

Dr Abeulaish also spoke about sending Bisan, his eldest now deceased daughter, to a peace-camp in Santé Fe , Mexico to be with Jewish Israeli girls, so “she could  get to know the other.”  At first it was difficult, but she ended up becoming friendly with them.

“During the war, all of the [Israeli] girls came to visit my daughter who was in hospital in Tel-Aviv,” he said.

The doctor concluded that “We must give women a greater role in making peace.”

EDITOR’S COMMENT:  It is most unfortunate that Dr. Abuelish did not negate outright the  idea of a “one state” solution  to the conflict by informing his audience, that there is no support among  Israeli Jews for this option,  and that, realistically, such a result will never be agreed upon between the parties. It is  a  false illusion. Such a notion means the end of the State of Israel and Israel will never agree to commit national suicide. Thus, reconciliation will have to come in the form of a two state solution to have any chance of  ever being implemented.   

<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Royal Bank
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • JNF Manitoba / Saskatchewan
  • JCFS
  • JCFS Winnipeg
  • Orthodox Union
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Sobey's
  • Coughlin Insurance
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Lipkin Family
  • Booke + Partners
  • Red River Coop
  • Gislason Targownik
  • Janice Morley-Lecomte
  • James Teitsma
  • Obby Khan
  • Jon Reyes
  • James Bezan
  • Markus Chambers
  • Ross Eadie
  • Ted Falk
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Chisick Family
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • Shinewald Family
  • MLT Aikins
  • MLT Aikins
  • Myers LLP
  • Charach Family
  • Munroe Dental Centre
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Preventative Health First
  • Lanny Silver
  • Josef Ryan
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bruce Shefrin Interior Design
  • PFK Lawyers
  • Commercial Pool
  • Simmonds and Associates
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Dr. Brent Schachter and Sora Ludwig
  • Clear Care Periodontal
  • Shindico
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Lazar Family
  • Superlite
  • Chochy's
  • Nick's Inn
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Global Philanthropic
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Peerless Garments
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Roseman Corp
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • Broadway Law Group
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.