After hearing Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish speak at convention, I shook his hand and bought his book, I Shall Not Hate. I read it this week and though I understand the individual words on the page, I struggle to understand the world he portrays.
… the oldest of nine children growing up in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip… all living in one room 3 metres by 3 metres, no running water, no electricity, no toilets… his mother cutting a banana to share between her nine children… the family left homeless after their home was bulldozed to widen the road for tanks… working through the night and attending school during the day… living amongst hatred, discrimination and war… the unpredictable and often humiliating ordeal of crossing the border between Palestine and Israel which he did many years, twice a week…losing three daughters and a niece to the shelling of his home…
Through the world of words I enter a foreign land and into the life of another. I am reminded how fortunate I am to live where and when I do. The details of his reality are incomprehensible to those of us living in a world of freedom and security.
And yet, despite his circumstances, this man is an advocate, a doctor, a father, a humanitarian, one might even say an optimist. As the world searches for peace and reconciliation, let us look to Dr. Abuelaish for inspiration.
Take comfort today knowing you are safe and educated, that you have food to eat and a place to call home. Share stories with your students to open their eyes to the world beyond their own. And the next time you sing O Canada, relish the reality of these words: the true north strong and free. How very blessed we are.