The Public Square

The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative welcomes Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish


The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative has arranged for Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish to come to our community for a 2-1/2 day visit this weekend. From world press and Internet coverage given to the tragic death of three of his daughter's caused by Israeli shelling of their home in Gaza in 2009 and, more recently, from publicity given to his new book entitled, "I Shall Not Hate", Dr. Abuelaish has come to be known by many simply as "the Gaza doctor".

The doctor's story is an amazing one. Born into extreme poverty in a refugee camp in Gaza, his Palestinian parents did everything they could to encourage his pursuit of education and, through a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo, he eventually went on earn degrees in Obstetrics and Gynecology in London and to complete a 6-year residency at the Soroka Medical Center in Israel. During and after the residency, he lived in Gaza and practiced medicine in both places, coping with extraordinarily frustrating travel restrictions during his weekly commutes and a paucity of medical resources in Gaza. During this period, however, he gained the respect of many patients and professional colleagues, Palestinian and Israeli, and formed his strong belief that medicine could bridge the divide between the two groups.

Deciding that if he wanted to make a larger difference for the Palestinian people, he needed to acquire management and policy-making skills, Dr. Abuelaish enrolled in a masters program in public health at Harvard University before returning to Gaza and being hired as a senior researcher at a large hospital in Tel Aviv. He was commuting weekly between the two places when his daughters were killed.

As stated on the cover of his book, Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hated, Abuelaish called for the people of the region to start talking to each other. His deep hope is that his daughters will be the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. After the death of his daughters, Dr Abuelaish formed a foundation dedicated to improving the health and education of women in the Middle East.

Please find time to listen to and talk with this extraordinary guest to our community. He will be at the Urbana Free Library tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. and at the Provena Covenant Auditorium at 4:00 p.m.. He will also be at CIMIC , the local Islamic mosque, at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday before appearing live on WILLs Keeping the Faith at 6:00. There will be opportunities to buy his book and get it signed at some of these venues.