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 - the life-altering repercussions it has created on both sides of the divide and on the Palestinians in particular. The disproportionate reaction by the institutionalized military powers causes loss of innocent lives, demolishes houses and farms; nothing is spared, and nothing is sacred.
I've lived with this tension in varying degrees throughout my life, and have always done my utmost to succeed, despite the limits our circumstances have 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. As a child, I knew that education was a privilege: something sacred and the key to many possibilities. I remember holding on tightly to my books the same as a mother cat would hold on to her newborn kittens, protecting my most valuable possessions with my life, in spite of any destruction that might have been going on around me. I loaned those treasures to my brothers and even some friends who were younger than I was. But before I did so, I let them know that they better take care of them as though they were their own most treasured possessions. I still have all those books today.
Through hard work, constant striving, and the rewards that come to a believer, I became a doctor. However, it wouldn't have been possible without the tremendous, untiring efforts of my parents and the rest of my family, who altruistically sacrificed everything, even though they had nothing, to support me throughout my time of studying. When I went to medical school in Cairo, they worried because I would be far away from them. Would I have enough to eat? Would I find our traditional foods? My favorite cookies; my favorite Palestinian spices; olives and olive oil? My mother would send these things with Gazans who came to visit Egypt. Sometimes I would receive packages of clothing, soap, apples, tea, coffee - all of which I needed, but also some of my favorite things. My family recognized my deep desire to make a better life for everyone and wanted to invest in me with very high hopes that I could help all of us. After medical school, I got a diploma in obstetrics and gynecology from 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, becoming the first Palestinian doctor to be on staff at an Israeli hospital. 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 master's program in public health (health policy and management) at Harvard University. Then I worked 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 stance in this region. Whether delivering babies, helping couples 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 are suicidal, that mutual respect, equality, and coexistence are 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 in December 2008 - 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.
Excerpted from I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish. Copyright © 2011 by Izzeldin Abuelaish. Excerpted by permission of Walker & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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