His Presence Honours Us
This week in many countries people are remembering the Holocaust. My whole life I have been aware of the Holocaust and its meaning for all of us and Jews, in particular. I remember my mother telling me about it. I think she thought it was important for us to know about it. I also as a teenager remember going to the beach at Roches Point on Lake Simcoe and seeing so many adults having tatooed numbers on their arm. I knew that they were Holocaust survivors. I would have liked to talk with some of them about it but I was shy and respectful of their privacy. And at a very young age I watched the movie Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog), the first movie made about the Holocaust that used captured Nazi footage. It left an impression on me.
I write all this as background because I want people to know I am sensitive to the Holocaust and its meaning. But, this year I think it is appropriate to remember a Palestinian of recent history. Dr Esseldeen Abu al-Aish.
Dr. Abu al-Aish was the gynocologist who was working in the hospital in Gaza during the attacks on the Gazans by Israel recently. His home was fired upon and three of his daughter (Bisan,20; Mayar 15 and Aya 13) were murdered along with one of his nieces (Nour 14). Another of his daughters (Shatha 16) was severely injured. Here is an account of the events.
It is important to know that the doctor is a man committed to peace. He worked in hospitals in both Gaza and Israel. For years has was a much respected physician delivering babies of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Since Easter, a time for Christians to find meaning in suffering I have been trying to learn what I can of Dr. Abu al-Aish. The more I learned the more I admire this saintly man. Last September his wife died of leukemia and he was left to raise his 8 children to whom he is much devoted and a very proud. He wanted them all to grow up sharing his commitment to peace and with careers that would make a real contribution to the World. His 15 year old daughter who died was the one who wanted to become a doctor like her father.
The day his home was fired upon he was on the telephone with a TV station in Israel to which he had been regularly reporting on the circumstance in Gazan. The station finally arranged for him and the injured to be evacuated to Israel for medical treatment. (There is a You Tube video of this)
One of the additional tragic elements in his story is that during these days there were two doctors in Canada, one Jew, one Muslim, trying to arrange for the doctor and his family to come to Canada. It has since happened but too late for three of his precious daughters.
I cannot give Dr. Abu a-Aish full credit with my words so I would ask that you take 20 minutes and listen to the radio documentary done on the CBC show The Current. This show moved me and I am sure it will you. In this documentary the full humanity of this wonderful man shines through. (click on the strip at the bottom of the paragraph about the show broadcast March 2 to hear the broadcast)
Dr Abu al-Aish has been given a research position at the University of Toronto. He will be moving his family to Canada for a while were he can devote time to them so they may heal as a family.
I hope they do and that their time in Canada will be very important to them.
I also hope the Dr. Abu al-Aish will find time to make his voice heard in Canada as a Palestinian who is committed to peace and understanding between Israel and Palestine. His voice and many more like him need to be heard. We hear too much from the right wing pro Israel point of view. Many of these fanatics don't even see Palestinians as fully human. I would hope that Canada's policy would change and be more even handed. It used to be. But under the Conservatives the government seems to want to fall in line with the Americans in that "never again" means that Israel can do no wrong and must be supported whatever they do to the Palestinians. This attitude is beginning to change. The Europeans are not of one voice with the Americans. There is even talk now that Israel should be held to account for 'war crimes" over their recent military destruction of Gaza. It is ironic that the Israelis remember each year on April 19 the Holocaust on the anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto and now comparisons have been made between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto. In both instances, the civilian population was trapped in a confined area with no place to flee too.
Over the years I have become disillusioned with Israel. One would expect that a people who had suffered in the Holocaust would be very sensitive to suffering they might inflict upon others. But no, "never again" means that Israel will make others suffer terribly, and even to their ultimate destruction, before they will ever have suffering wrought upon them again.
Well, Dr Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish and his family were the innocent victims of unforgivable Israeli aggression. In the face, of his personal tragedy Dr Abu al_Aish refuses to speak in anger and hatred about those who have tried to destroy his life and family. He honours us with his presence!