Sunday, 5 June 2011
A doctor’s quest to heal the world.
He registers my surprise and continues “I am not exceptional. We are all the same. We all have a face, a mind, a heart. We all have the strength. In some it’s awake; in others it may be dormant. If I thought of hate and revenge, it will never help me or others. Hate is destructive to the hater, not the hated. It is a disease, a toxin.”
I note that he has still not answered my first question, so I repeat it. How representative is he of the Palestinians’ attitudes? He replies in Hebrew which initially surprises me; it is fluent with a distinct Arabic inflection. “I am a representative of myself and what I believe in. And I hope people will listen.”
Dr. Aublaish is a man who believes a lot of good comes from a little bit of good.
The book, while immensely readable, does not contain, or claim to be, a political treatise or a blueprint for a peaceful resolution to this conflict. It is not clear what kind of solution he envisages in practical terms. He avoids questions about Hamas, its charter, its intransigence and unwillingness to accept Israel’s existence. Will the Palestinian refugees be allowed to return? He clearly does not wish to be drawn into a discussion of this kind.
“We must all, each one of us, work to make it happen”, he says. “We must not get tangled in mutual accusations. Each individual, each community, each leader, each nation, must take responsibility. The road map is there. We just need the car to drive it and go.”
I attend his talk, given to a packed house, and look around as the audience sits, rapt. Here is a man whose life was turned upside down; the magnitude of his loss is unimaginable. And yet, his optimism is indefatigable; his faith unshaken. He has chosen to dedicate his life to promoting peace.
Noses are blowing into handkerchiefs and eyes are streaming, as he reads a poem in memory of his daughter, Bessan. Finally he tells the crowd: “There is a way forward, we can break the chain of violence and we can live in peace.” This is met by a thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
“I think he should be cloned many times over and sent to both Israel and Palestine”, remarks one lady to her friend on her way out.
Dr Abulaish has won hearts and minds here, but it was not a hard feat to accomplish. He is largely preaching to the converted. Changing minds and winning hearts back home, will be a different matter. And this is perhaps the nub of the tragedy: his book will be read by those who already share his vision. It is unlikely to be read by those who should be reading it, on either sides of the divide.