Abuelaish, who was nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, will speak in conversation with Professor Mark Rosenblum, director of Queens College Center for Jewish Studies, in Forest Hills on Sunday, November 13 in yet another effort to promote peace in the region.
Abuelaish has been friends with Rosenblum for more than 15 years. He said the professor is open-minded on the situation with Israel and Palestine, and is a promoter of peace.
The Palestinian doctor said that he will be speaking about the disappointments and frustrations people are having in the Middle East, in addition to how to achieve peace.
He said that he would like to encourage his audience not to blame others, but to have them “take responsibility for what each of them can do” to establish peace for humanity.
“The peace we are looking for should be for both, for all, not one,” said Abuelaish. “My peace is dependent on your peace. My life is connected with your life.”
He regards his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize as hopeful, because it shows that people are recognizing the efforts for peace, but he also added that “we must do more.”
Raised in a poor family, Abuelaish grew up in a refugee camp in Gaza. As a Palestinian doctor who worked in Israeli hospitals, he has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and Palestine. He bridged the divide between cultures by treating both Palestinian and Israeli patients.
He made international headlines when he phoned Israeli broadcaster Shlomi Eldar, who was on the air at the time, after Israeli shells hit Abuelaish’s home, which killed three of his daughters and niece. He managed to save one daughter Shatha, but witnessed the aftermath of the blast, of what was left of his daughters Mayar, Aya, Bessan, and his niece, Noor.
The live and raw feed of his loss provided Israelis a chance to understand the extent of violence Palestinians were facing. Soon after, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, announced a unilateral ceasefire.
Abuelaish believed that his daughters' blood was not wasted, but that it helped save lives. “In every bad thing, there is something good,” said the doctor.
His response to the death of his family was to devote his life to advocating peace by speaking to audiences around the world.
In memory of his daughters, he created the Daughters For Life Foundation, which grants scholarships to young women in the Middle East for higher education and allows women who experienced and overcame great hardships the chance to study in any preferred institution.
“It’s time for girls and women to take the lead,” said Abuelaish. “It’s not a woman’s standards or rights. It’s a woman’s role in decision making, in shaping the life of their nation.”
He has also written a novel, “I Shall Not Hate,” about his life, from his suffering as a child in Gaza to his academic achievements and his practicing as a doctor in Israeli hospitals.
He said the book’s message is for people not to be prisoners of the past and not to drown in hate, but to be stronger. He wanted people to not accept what is occurring in the Middle East, but to challenge the man-made suffering.
“Life is what you make it,” said Abuelaish, quoting Grandma Moses.
Currently, Abuelaish lives in Toronto, Canada, with his five children and is an associate professor at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Abuelaish’s talk will be held on Sunday, November 13 at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, located at 106-06 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills. The talk will be presented by the non-profit Hevesi Jewish Heritage Library of the Central Queens YM and YWHA.
Tickets to the event are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Information and tickets can be found online at www.centralqueensy.org/Abuelaish or at (718) 268-5011, ext. 151 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.