This article was first published in JWeekly.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian ob-gyn from the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, immigrated with his five children to Canada in 2009 to start a new life. However, he could not leave his traumatic past behind. Nor did he want to.
“The wound is open and I live with it every day,” the doctor said by phone from his office at the University of Toronto, where he teaches at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
That unhealable wound is the killing of his three daughters, Bissan, Mayar and Aya, and a niece by an Israeli army shell that hit his family’s home in the final days of Operation Cast Lead in early 2009. The tragedy took place as Abuelaish, a fluent Hebrew speaker who worked in Israeli hospitals, was on the phone with an Israeli TV program giving an eyewitness account of the war.
Adding to his pain, the doctor’s wife had died of cancer just a month earlier, in December 2008.
“If I could know that my daughters were the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis, then I would accept their loss,” Abuelaish, a man of deep Islamic faith, has written.
Despite his knowing that his daughters were not — and will not be — the last sacrifice, he has been able to forge ahead better than most. He keeps his daughters’ memories alive by traveling the world to encourage people to build bridges based on commonalities and a mutual interest in a better future.
In a busy season that will take him to North America, Pakistan, Cyprus, Jordan and Hong Kong, Abuelaish will make a stop at the Osher Marin JCC on Wednesday, March 6, to take part in the center’s “Salaam, Shalom: Speaking of Peace” series.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.