Zelda Harris
Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

A doctor from Gaza and a captive audience

He was born in a refugee camp in Gaza, and was the first Palestinian doctor to work in an Israeli hospital

.”What is life?” says Dr  Izzeldin Abuelaish.

“It’s all about human beings respecting the other

Also, education is a huge factor in influencing the future generations. It seems from what is happening in our world today that religious extremism and vested interests are amongst the most dominating factors. They are fostering destruction and devastation, freedom of basic human rights and untoward hatred.”

“DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: “We are standing in the scene of the tragedy, in the place where four lovely girls were sitting, building their dreams and their hopes, and in seconds, these dreams were killed. These flowers were dead. Three of my daughters and one niece were killed in one second on the 16th of January at a quarter to five p.m. Just a few seconds, I left them, and they stayed in the room — two daughters here, one daughter here, one daughter here, and my niece with them.

The first shell came from the tank space, which is there, came to shell two daughters who were sitting here on their chairs. And when I heard this shell, I came inside the room to find, to look. I can’t recognize my daughters. Their heads were cut off their bodies. They were separated from their bodies, and I can’t recognize whose body is this. They were drowning in a pool of blood. This is the pool of blood. Even look here. This is their brain. These are parts of their brain. Aya was lying on the ground. Shatha was injured, and her eye is coming out. Her fingers were torn, just attached by a tag of skin. I felt dissolved, out of space, screaming, “What can I do?” They were not satisfied by the first shell and to leave my eldest daughter. But the second shell soon came to kill Aya, to injure my niece, who came down from the third floor, and to kill my eldest daughter Bessan, who was in the kitchen and came at that moment, screaming and jumping, ‘Dad! Dad! Aya is injured!'”

He became a Canadian citizen in 2015.

Last Wednesday, I was privileged to be at the home of a friend in Tel Aviv.She had invited  Dr. Abulaeish who was visiting Israel and the West Bank,  to meet some friends and colleagues.

He did not talk about those gruesome details which I quoted from Google.There you will find numerous accounts of his story which I urge you to look at. He has also written a book”I shall not hate” which has been translated into 23 languages.

He is an outstanding human being despite his personal indescribable tragedy, a man without hate. Feeling, caring and now an internationally acclaimed  Associate Professor of Global Health at the University of Toronto. He had worked in both Soroka and Sheba hospitals in Israel and delivered thousands of Israeli babies. “One of the most gratifying things in life is to hand the newborn to its mother.There are no politics at that moment only hope. Our gracious hostess who herself is a distinguished scientist and doctor from the Weizmann Institute as well as a “peace activist” told us that they had met when she was visiting Toronto. He had promised that he would talk about his mission to bring an end to the conflict in our region.

There were over 50 people present at the event and since our hostess originates from the FSU, as to be expected there were a large number of Russian speakers present as well as others  born in Israel and some foreign dignitaries.

As a former campaigner for the Release of Soviet Jewry, I was intrigued by the range of views and questions coming from those Olim who have made such an impact on Israeli society. They do not speak in one voice. Neither are they united politically on the issue of occupation and the relationship with those who also “inherit the land”. but are not Jews. Even though, they were shocked by his personal account.  This unique human being, he who had been subjected to hardship and deprivation during much of his life.

The only obvious media person was an attractive young woman from an Australian news outlet who filmed many of the conversations of those who raised their voices during and after question time.She asked me if I had anything to add.

As an Israeli who had been in and out of Gaza frequently with journalists from overseas for over 12 years, I felt that it was important to tell her what I had gleaned from visits during the years of the “occupation”. What I had seen first hand.

I appraised her of the fact that Gazans are amazing farmers, artisans and builders and as the Doctor had stated during his presentation, eager to learn. I told her that there was even a Hebrew ulpan -language school in Gaza during the years before Israel pulled out. “Oh” she responded but you haven’t been there recently.”

Our eminent speaker had tried to get this across when he spoke of a high standard of education and achievement amongst the pupils there, which he saw as the potential of a productive society in Gaza.

“As long as that is the case all hope is not lost.It’s simply up to the leaders on both sides to think about the future of society in our region, instead of how we can destroy and or suppress another people.”

The journalist had picked up on the accusative remarks from some of the audience who had thrown in the usual barbs about Hamas, the withdrawal of Israel and about the hatred instilled into young Gazans by their leaders.

It was hard to convince her that there are many of us who desperately want what Dr Izzeldin wants and that is to find ways to real peace.

The following morning at the crack of dawn I accompanied a friend to Assuta Hospital in Ramat Hachayal. She had to undergo a procedure and was advised to bring a companion.

I could not fail to be impressed by the ambiance of this medical centre supposedly the finest in the Middle East.There was also a shiny black grand piano in the entrance hall, which sent a message…for me anyway.

I was also awed by the efficiency of the personnel, many of whom were Russian speakers and the fact that at every step after my friend had been admitted, I was notified by text of where she was and what her status was.

Over a much-needed cup of coffee, I had time to reflect on possibly the most profound words Izzeldin  uttered the previous evening  “We have made tremendous advances in technology but we have regressed in humanity”

I was glad of both experiences but somehow it was all paradoxical.

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.