KARACHI: There was hardly anyone in the audience who did not choke or wipe away a silent tear while listening to Palestinian doctor and author Izzeldin Abuelaish recall the horror of losing three daughters to an Israeli airstrike and his refusal to bow down to hatred as a healing mechanism during a Karachi Literature Festival session.
The small discussion moderated by columnist Raza Rumi, Abuelaish candidly shared the grief of losing three daughters to Israeli violence, the anger and guilt it evoked within him and his reconciliation with the reality that hating other human beings was not the solution.
His book titled I Shall Not Hate elaborates on the message of finding a peaceful coexistence between grief and hope and using it as a tool to keep moving forward. The book has been translated into 22 languages.
“I swore to God and my daughters that I will never give up or forget. Kind words and good deeds is the way to keep my daughters and loved ones alive,” he said
Born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp, Abuelaish received his initial education in refugee camp schools but later went on to study medicine in Cairo and London. He is also the first Palestinian doctor to work at an Israeli hospital and treat both Israeli and Palestinian patients.
When questioned about the role of a doctor in a complicated political conflict such as Israel and Palestine, Abuelaish emphasised how every member of society could be a change agent if they raised their voice against injustice.
“Evil flourishes when people do nothing to stop it. This is not easy or fun for me, but I have to do it because I am accountable to my daughters,” he said.
His voice broke often and raw emotion was etched upon his face as he spoke about the guilt of leaving his daughters’ room seconds before the strike, the pain of breaking the news to his son who had already lost a mother, and the anger at seeing human deaths being reduced to mere statistics.
“You save one life, you save the world. You kill one life, you kill the world,” he said.
The small crowd was captivated by Abuelaish’s strength as he solemnly read his favourite excerpts from the book about his daughters. A teary-eyed father commended Abuelaish on his courage while another member of the audience stated how much Pakistanis could learn from his spirit.
Rumi concluded the session by highlighting the resonance between Abuelaish’s experience and the events in present-day Karachi and Pakistan and the lessons to be learnt. A one-minute silence was also observed in memory of the victims who had lost their lives in the Quetta blast on Saturday.