Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reaching Across Borders

I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish is one of those rare books that grabs you from the very beginning, will not let you put it down, and stays with you after you are finished. This heart-rending memoir shares the story of a Palestinian doctor from Gaza. Sadly to many Americans, Gaza is little more than a strip of land that the Israelis and Palestinians fight over which is mentioned on the nightly news regularly. After reading I Shall Not Hate, the people of Gaza and their issues are real.

Abuelaish's story depicts his childhood growing up in incredible poverty and the necessity of working even as a young child to simply eat. As he matures, readers follow his growing interest in the field of medicine and his journey to college and then medical school. His ambitions and desire to succeed provide the opportunity for Abuelaish to partner with Israeli doctors in an Israeli hospital. This partnership is very rare due to his background as a Muslim Palestinian from Gaza. Throughout his story Abuelaish emphasizes that medicine does not see race or creed but only a human being who needs medical care.

As his medical practice and reputation grows, so does Abuelaish's family. His family eventually numbers 8 children. On several occasions in order to seek out further education or work opportunities, he endures lengthy separations from his family. Yet, his love and commitment to them shows clearly throughout the book. A family tragedy requires Abuelaish return to Gaza and his partnership with the Israeli hospital. However, politics soon keeps him from practicing the medicine he loves and he endures another family tragedy. Rather than wallowing in grief as most individuals would be prone to do, Abuelaish instead utilizes his Israeli contacts to share his heart-wrenching story with others. Even as the book draws to an end, Abuelaish is seeking to use his tragedy for good.

I Shall Not Hate is highly recommended for a variety of readers. Individuals who are interested in current world affairs and politics will find it very interesting. Students of modern religion will also find this work very readable. While Abuelaish does not dwell on his religious faith, his faith and ethnic heritage are crucial to his story. Book clubs and reading groups would have a great deal to discuss after reading this memoir. I Shall Not Hate will simultaneously cause you to marvel at the tenacity of this particular individual and wonder how there can be such cruelty in the world. This book also serves to remind readers that every story, particularly news stories, have multiple viewpoints and all views must be considered. Readers in high school up will appreciate this work. Motivated junior high students may also benefit from reading this with guidance.

Disclaimer: I reviewed this book because I found it to be an engaging and totally engrossing story that others will enjoy and benefit from reading. I did not receive an advance copy. I'm pretty sure this title was a free or very low cost Kindle download.

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