Bookworm Blog: I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

It’s a frightening world out there. But you don’t have to be reminded of that.

Lately, in particular, you’ve seen enough of violence in the next town, the next corner, around the world. If bullets aren’t exchanged, it’s words or malice, which can be scary, too, in a way, and can escalate. And it’s scarier to think that sometimes, you’re no longer shocked by it.

So what does it take to keep venom out of your heart? As you’ll see in “I Shall Not Hate” by Izzeldin Abuelaish, it takes a ton of courage.

From Israel to Gaza used to be about a sixty-minute trip.

These days, it takes half a day – if you’re lucky. Travelers wait hours to go through several checkpoints, hoping their paperwork is all correct. Anyone may be stopped and turned back for any reason, or none at all.

It’s a trip Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish used to make often. As one of few Palestinians allowed to work in Israel, Abuelaish left his family each Monday morning, hoping that Thursday night’s return was uneventful. When it wasn’t, he didn’t go home.

Abuelaish was born and raised in a refugee camp in Gaza, where people were packed in hovels and children were always “barefoot, flea-bitten, and hungry.” As the oldest son, he was allowed to go to school, but he was also expected to work.

School took a backseat.

But teachers encouraged the boy and Abuelaish hoped to become a doctor. He knew it was the only way to escape the refugee camp, and to help his people. It wasn’t easy, but he was bolstered by others who saw his drive, determination, and talent. They helped him find the best schools around the world, so that he could become a public health expert and gynecologist specializing in infertility.

In some Middle Eastern hospitals, then as now, a sort of medical segregation takes place, but Abuelaish, a Muslim, treated any woman who needed him, despite her ethnicity or religion – something others marveled at. But even today, he thinks nothing of it.

He is a doctor. He treats patients, not religions.

He didn’t see any reason to hate anyone.

And that included the people who shelled his home and killed his children…

Have recent events made you think hard about politics, violence, and venom? Then this gracious, powerful book about tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding will give you even more to ponder.

With a mournful look back at a childhood spent dodging war and poverty, years wasted with bureaucracy, and the missed time with his loved ones, author and physician Izzeldin Abuelaish tells his story with strength looking forward despite the losses he and his family have endured. This is a gentle, uncompromising, head-held-high kind of memoir with a triumphant ending, and I daresay it may educate a lot of readers.

Beware that there is horror in “I Shall Not Hate” but the message here will give you hope for us all. If peace is sounding pretty good to you lately, you’ll hate yourself for missing this book.