FOSTER CITY -- A Palestinian doctor who turned his grief over the deaths of three daughters in an Israeli artillery attack into a stirring call for peace brings his message of reconciliation to the Bay Area this week.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who lived in the Gaza Strip with his family but worked as a gynecologist at an Israeli hospital, experienced a horrific tragedy on Jan. 16, 2009, when shells fired by Israeli tanks struck his family's building in the final days of the three-week Gaza War, tearing three of his children to pieces. One of his nieces was also killed, and a fourth daughter lost an eye.
The doctor's anguish was captured on live television, and his nonviolent reaction generated international headlines. Abuelaish, who now lives in Toronto with his surviving children, will discuss his book, "I Shall Not Hate," on Tuesday night at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center in Foster City. On Wednesday he will speak in San Rafael.
"The nature of the conflict between Israel and Palestine is such that there is a constant cycle of violence and counterviolence, attack and counterattack, hatred and counterhatred," said Rabbi Lavey Derby, director of Jewish life at the PJCC. "He's transformed his personal tragedy into a deeper commitment to create peace between two warring peoples. I find that incredibly moving."
Though he grew up in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, Abuelaish studied medicine in London and received a master's degree from Harvard University. He claims to have been the first Palestinian doctor to receive a medical appointment at an Israeli hospital.
Abuelaish, often referred to as "the Gaza doctor," said in a phone interview Monday that he eschewed hatred and revenge after his daughters' deaths because he understood that dwelling in darkness would not bring his daughters back. Instead he hopes to give them a meaningful legacy.
"In every bad thing we face in life there's something good, and it's in our hands to recognize it," said Abuelaish, who advocates for a two-state solution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "It's important to move forward, but with what? With good will and respect and understanding."
Abuelaish will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the PJCC, located at 800 Foster City Blvd. For tickets, call 650-378-2702. He will also speak at a free event at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael. For information, visit www.marinjcc.org.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.