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Robert Kopstein

Dr.Izzeldin Abuelaish
photo by Bob Talbot


March 10, 2013


[Editor's Note: I want to take a moment to remember Robert Kopstein who contributed several articles to the Winnipeg  Jewish Review, and had intended on contributing many more had his health allowed.

Bob was  thoughtful and analyical reader and often sent me notes and suggested articles. He had a keen  and fierce intellect, one which I appreciated and repected.Even if we saw different sides to an issue, I always wanted to hear and  understand what he had to say.  He enjoyed articles where  I would debate Elliot Leven or others-  I think it was the  judge in him that  enjoyed a good debate. And he  would let me know if he thought I had missed anything.  His feedback was always worth hearing and I will miss not greceiving it. At one point in early 2013, when I anticipated being in Israel for a more extended stay, I told him he could be the Editor-- I'd give him access to the website and he could go ahead and write away.  He wanted some guidelines before he took the job. I answered that he could come up with the guidelines and send them to me ! We both laughed. The truth was, as I told him, I thought he was a  great writer, more well read than I, and that I trusted him implicitly to find interesting material to post.  He then asked me seriously to tell him what I  thought he could contribute to this publication and  I suggested book reviews since I rarely  find time to read a half a book let alone a full one. Bob liked that idea and sent me this book review  of  " I Shall Not Hate" by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish which I am reprinting below. Bob ended this review below by concluding that "This book is well worth the time." Those are my sentiments exactly with regard to Bob-hearing from him was well worth the time. .

I want to offer my sincere condolences to all of Bob's family--may his memory be a blessing.

To read a full obituary, please see the obituary section of the Winnipeg Jewish Review  ]


Book Reviewed: I Shall Not Hate by Dr.Izzeldin Abuelaish, Pub. Random House, Canada, 2010

by Robert Kopstein, Dec 12, 2012

I Shall Not Hate, is the story and autobiography of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish who grew up amidst the harsh realities, firstly, of the occupation of the Gaza Strip, and then, following the Israeli departure from Gaza, in 2005, by the stark, often heartless, mean and frustrating limitations on the lives of the innocent residents of Gaza, particularly following their election of Hamas as their government. The book is replete with Abuelaish’s personal glimpses and reflections through which he tried to make sense of the unrelenting conditions surrounding him in Gaza as he moved from childhood to a morally conscious adult medical professional.                                                                   

Until 1948 his family had lived in Houg, a village near Sderot, for generations. In 1947, however, the future of the region became uncertain. On November 29th the U.N. General Assembly adopted its Resolution 181(II), providing for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The resolution led to major unrest. The Arab authorities rejected the resolution outright.  In 1948, though Dr. Abuelaish makes no suggestion that the family was directly harassed by the Israelis, his great grandfather decided that the family should move to Gaza until matters settled down in their ancestral village. The plan was that they would then return to their village.
 Izzeldin was born in Gaza some 7 years later, in 1955, where his family, now poor and dispossessed, lived in a refugee camp at Jabalia. While the move to Jabalia had been understood by his family, a temporary displacement, the reality of its permanence grew over the years. His mother, however, though harsh in her treatment of the author, was a strong, dedicated and caring parent.
She motivated, (or perhaps, “required” would be a better word), Izzeldin, who was the eldest of his some seven siblings, to work and to study. He excelled as a student, while working, as well, throughout his childhood, to earn needed money. It is clear he was remarkably gifted, academically, and intensely reflective of the situation of life in Gaza. He came to the early realization that the only way out of the cramped, harsh and unyielding poverty of his life was education.
His dream was to become a physician. The dream began to take shape with his visit to a hospital for treatment during his teens, because he suffered from disabling arthritic pain in his legs. It was the Al Shifra Hospital, a U.N. Health Centre in Gaza City, a Palestinian facility.  In the treatment accorded to him, he learned that aspirin could relieve his pain. He also observed, incidentally the working relationships between men and women that would not have occurred or been tolerated in his community. At the hospital he saw the difference in apparent wealth between the Palestinians who were not refugees, by comparison to those like his family, who were.
At fifteen years of age, he worked during the summer- for 40 days - for an Israeli Sephardic family, on a moshav near Ashqelon. Lonesome, because this  was the first time he had been away from home for more than a day or two, he noticed and was impressed by the family’s kindness toward him;  surprised that they would hire him, treat him fairly and show him kindness. Their treatment of him was contrary to his impression of Israelis that was etched in his consciousness.
He returned home, however, when his summer employment ended, to witness, upon only a few hours of notice, the houses on his street, including his house being bulldozed by Israeli heavy machinery, to make way for a road the Israelis intended to build. The contradictory facts and impressions between the kindness he had been shown by the family for whom he worked during the summer, and the inhuman, “brute force” visited upon their existence by the destruction of their homes, perplexed him, but, it seems, did not inspire feelings of anger or the wish for vengeance. Instead, it made him feel that he must find a peaceful bridge between the two entities. He asserts often that he did not feel hate. He felt that education was an answer. That feelings of anger and revenge did not dominate his mind is noteworthy.
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