In January 2009, an Israeli tank shelled the home of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish in the Gaza Strip and killed three of his daughters: Bessan, 21; Mayar, 15; and Aya, 13. This tragedy occured only minutes before Dr. Abuelaish was scheduled to speak live on Israeli television. His recorded cries for help captured hearts and headlines in Israel and around the world, and his response to the loss of his daughters was followed by international audiences. Dr. Abuelaish never sought to seek revenge or sink into despair and hatred. Instead, he called for those in the Middle East to stop the bloodshed and facilitate discourse for mutual understanding. His strongest hope is that his daughters will be the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and his advocacy efforts have been acknowledged with numerous humanitarian awards.
The Daughters for Life Foundation was established in memory of Bessan, Mayar, and Aya, and their love of life and learning as well as their hopes and dreams for a better educated world. The Foundation believes that lasting peace in the Middle East depends on the empowerment of girls and young women through education, which will allow them to become agents of change for the betterment of life throughout the Middle East. To that end, we provide scholarships and awards for aspiring young women in order to enable them to pursue studies that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. Awards are offered to students in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, as well as scholarships at the graduate and undergraduate level to study in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
“I know what I have lost, what was taken from me, will never come back. But as a physician and a Muslim of deep faith, I need to move forward to the light, motivated by the spirits of those I lost. I need to bring them justice… I will keep moving but I need you to join me in this long journey.”
We support young women of any Middle Eastern nationality, regardless of their religious affiliation, ethnicity or background. Our recipients are chosen not only for their academic prowess, which has often been challenged in the face of socio-economic adversity and hardship, but also for their character and commitment to the improvement of lives for girls and young women in the Middle East. Our goal is to invest in their potential for leadership and foster their success in whichever fields they choose to specialize in.
MEET THE FOUNDER
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, MD, MPH
A five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and internationally recognized human rights and inspirational peace activist, known as the “Martin Luther King of the Middle East”, often referred to as the “Gaza Doctor” in the media, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian medical doctor and infertility specialist who is devoted to advance health and education opportunities for women and girls in the Middle East, through his researches and his charitable organization, the Daughters for Life Foundation.
Dr. Abuelaish, who has worked in Israeli hospitals caring for patients and delivering babies of both Palestinian and Israeli descent, has always said that all people, regardless of their religious and political beliefs, are equal, deserve access to quality education and health care, and should have every opportunity to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.
Born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Abuelaish has overcome many personal hardships, including poverty and violence, to become one of the most outspoken, prominent, and beloved educators and public speakers on peace and development in the Middle East. His personal doctrine is that hate is not a response to war. Rather, open communication, understanding, and compassion are the tools needed to bridge the divide between Israeli and Palestinian interests. “All can live in harmony,” he says. “And all can reach their full potentials spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually.”
Dr. Abuelaish received his elementary, preparatory and secondary educations in the refugee camp school system in Jabalia, Gaza. As a child and an adult, he and his family endured the dismal and severely impoverished conditions of the refugee camp, as well as the constant humiliation and inhumanity associated with the siege and its checkpoints and travel restrictions.
At all times, Dr. Abuelaish strived to maintain a balanced and positive perspective toward his experiences and the Israeli people, knowing that the latter are not representative of the sentiments that fuel one of the world’s longest conflicts, and the conflict that threatens overall world security.
Dr. Abuelaish aspired to become a doctor from a young age. He earned a scholarship to study medicine at the University of Cairo and earned a diploma in Obstetrics and Gynecology with the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with the University of London. He specialized with training programs in Israel, Italy, and Belgium and earned a Master’s degree in Public Health, Health Policy, and Management at Harvard University. Dr. Abuelaish was the first Palestinian doctor to receive a staff position at an Israeli hospital and for many years, he worked as a senior researcher at the Gertner Institute in Sheba Hospital in Israel.
When his three young daughters, Bessan, 21, Mayar, 15, and Aya, 13, and his niece Noor, 17, were killed by an Israeli tank in Gaza on January 16, 2009, Dr. Abuelaish’s family had already been grieving the loss of his wife to cancer four months earlier. His 2010 memoir I Shall Not Hate, describes how the tragedy that befell Dr. Abuelaish’s family inspired him to dedicate his work towards peace and conflict resolution between Palestinians and Israelis. The memoir has been translated into 16 languages, been widely received all over the world, and has decorated Dr. Abuelaish a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Currently, Dr. Abuelaish is an Associate Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, Canada. where he teaches three courses in public health: Women’s Health in Countries of Conflict, Health as an Engine for the Journey to Peace, and International Perspectives on Health Services Management. These courses focus on understanding the sources of social and political conflict, and provide tangible and pragmatic ways to promote health as a strategy towards building peace.
Dr. Abuelaish’s Awards
- Doctor of Humane Letters, Saint Joseph’s College, 2016
- Doctor of Science, Simon Fraser University, 2016
- Doctor of Laws, University of Windsor, 2016
- Doctor of Laws, Brock University, 2016
- Doctor of Laws, University of Calgary, 2015
- Doctor of Laws, York University, 2015
- Doctor of Humane Letters, New College of Florida, 2015
- Diploma in Peace and Conflict Studies, Sault College, 2014
- Doctor of Laws, University of Saskatchewan, 2014
- Doctor of Laws, McMaster University, 2014
- Doctor of Letters, University of Toronto, 2013
- Citizenship from the Government of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2012
- Doctor of Laws, University of Western Ontario, 2012
- Doctor of Laws, University of Manitoba, 2011
- Doctor of Laws, Queen’s University, 2011
- Governor General Medallion, 2016
- Public Peace Prize, 2014
- Order of Ontario, 2013
- Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, 2013
- Calgary Peace Prize, 2012
- Mahatma Ghandi Peace Award of Canada, 2010
- Living Legend Award, Human Symphony Foundation (Washington, DC), 2016
- Personality of the Year in Palestine, 2015
- Award of Excellence for Promotion of Human Rights and Peace, 2015
- Medicine and Health as a Catalyst to Peace, 2015
- One of the 500 Most Powerful Arabs in the World, 2013
- Walter Reuther Social Justice Award, 2012
- Middle Eastern Monitor Magazine Book Prize (London, UK), 2012
- Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, 2012
- Middle East Institute Award, 2009
- Stavros Niarchos Prize for Survivorship, 2009
- Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2016
- Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought Finalist, 2009
DAUGHTERS FOR LIFE
Board of Directors
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is the Founder and President of The Daughters for Life Foundation. A Palestinian physician, he is now one of the most prominent international speakers on peace and development and has been called the “Martin Luther King of the Middle East.” In two separate addresses to the nation, President Barak Obama has held up his work as an example of the promise of reconciliation in the Middle East.
Dr. Abuelaish’s internationally acclaimed book, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey, was inspired by the loss of three of his daughters – Bessan, Mayar, and Aya – to Israeli shelling in 2009. The book has been translated into 16 languages and is a testament to his deeply held belief as a devout Muslim that non-violence is the only path to lasting peace.
Dr. Abuelaish is an Associate Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. He has received many awards for his promotion of human rights and peace, including the Order of Ontario, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Calgary Peace Prize, and the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award of Canada. He has received honorary degrees from the University of Manitoba, Queens University, and the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Abuelaish is a nominee for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for the third consecutive year.
Dalal is an active member of the Arab Student Association at the University of Toronto which sponsors public awareness programs on the Middle East. As a teenager she attended a peace camp in New Mexico, USA, which sparked a lifelong interest in dialogue across cultural and religious traditions. Dalal and her sister, Shatha, were media spokespersons for the Daughters for Life Inaugural Gala in 2012.
Dalal Abuelaish is a founding member of the Daughters for Life Foundation. She studied architecture for two years at the Islamic University of Gaza after graduating with honors from high school in Gaza. She is now a student at the University of Toronto, majoring in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Business. She is specializing in communication systems and recently completed a summer internship as a software control analyst. In her first year she was part of a team whose design was one of six selected for its creativity out of approximately 850 designs. Dalal is an active member of the Arab Student Association at the University of Toronto which sponsors public awareness programs on the Middle East. As a teenager she attended a peace camp in New Mexico, USA, which sparked a lifelong interest in dialogue across cultural and religious traditions. Dalal and her sister, Shatha, were media spokespersons for the Daughters for Life Inaugural Gala in 2012.
Dr. Jack N. Lightstone is the former President and Vice-Chancellor of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. He remains an active scholar and has consistently been funded by external peer-reviewed grants. Dr. Lightstone is the author of six books and is widely published in scholarly and professional journals.
Having led the implementation of 5 other mergers/ amalgamations before the KGH turnaround, I know what it takes mobilize hearts and minds of diverse stakeholder groups as they move through periods of major change, and to help them achieve results beyond what anyone ever imagined possible. My strategy? Keep the patient at the forefront, and everything will unfold from there.
From my private sector experience with three publicly traded companies across different industries ( retail, medical technology, seniors housing), I know that leaders who can inspire their teams to deliver long term value to customers and shareholders are the ones who win. I have been part of major business model shifts, global strategy design, mergers and acquisitions, and rapid business expansions within industry leading companies. These companies all share a relentless focus on making the customer experience great while delivering strong financial results and upholding the highest business integrity standards.
Together these experiences, along with my love of writing, teaching and public speaking, have shaped the leader I am today, and the type of opportunity I want to pursue tomorrow.
Now, onward toward the next adventure!
She is known as business woman and a humanitarian activist, national and international volunteer regularly manages sponsorships and raise funds to support international causes. She participates in humanitarian and voluntary community work and fully engaged and supports many charity organizations.
She is fluent in Arabic, English and Sign language, and has applied these skills to pursue other opportunities in business. In 2007, Iman participated in hosting a health and beauty segment on My Second Home, a weekly television program through Rogers T.V. The purpose of this show was to help newcomers to Canada by providing them with information to assist in the transition from the Middle East to Canada. Through this opportunity, her business gained greater exposure locally and nationally.
Currently, Iman is pursuing her Ph. D. program in Business administration at one of the state of Michigan Universities, with a research focused on Entrepreneurship among female immigrants; in collaboration with Windsor Women working with immigrant women WWWIW. Also, taking a lead role as a trainer with Global Training Services of Michigan as a vice president to train and prepare young female entrepreneurs to enter the business world.
As a business woman, Iman started her first experience in the business world at a younger age by selling fragrances & beauty supplies to friends and families out of her home. As demand grew, the opportunity to open up a retail store materialized and BCL was founded in 2003. Unlike other liquidations, BCL was unique, as the focus was providing high-end products at affordable prices. Iman then expanded her business to include wholesale to local pharmacies, and then set her business goals higher by importing and exporting abroad, including to the Middle East. In 2012, she then seized the opportunity and expanded by opening Amour Fragrances, a second location in southern Ontario. The focus of this business is providing customers with designer fragrances, cosmetics and jewelry. Iman has leveraged her business experience and utilized her suppliers across the globe to provide customers with current brand name products, classics and hard to find favorites.
Meet The Team
Jacklin possesses over a decade of strategic management experience in both the private and not-for-profit sectors. Before joining DFL in 2015, Jacklin played a key role in the communications, event management, and public relations divisions of a variety of companies in the Middle East. Jacklin’s recent studies at the University of Toronto focused on strategic communications and digital marketing. She holds a BA in Tourism and Hospitality Management from Egypt.
Jacklin is currently the sole employee at Daughters for Life due to its limited operations budget. She manages the Foundation alongside the Board of Directors and a network of dedicated volunteers, donors, and partners. Jacklin can be reached at
Program & Communications Manager
I Shall Not Hate
“I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity”, was published in 2010 and inspired by the loss of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’ three daughters and his niece. It has achieved worldwide critical acclaim, has been an international bestseller in five continents, and has been translated into 23 languages, resonating with millions of people worldwide. As a matter of fact, his book has received over 26 million hits on Google and been used in universities for various fields of study.
What can you do? You can do a lot.
You can support justice for all by speaking out loudly to your family, friends, community, politicians and religious leaders.
You can support foundations that do good work. You can volunteer for humanitarian organizations. You can vote regressive politicians out of office. You can do many things to move the world toward greater harmony…
“I know that what I have lost, what was taken from me, will never come back. But as a physician and a Muslim of deep faith, I need to move forward to the light, motivated by the spirits of those I lost. I need to bring them justice… I will keep moving but I need you to join me in this long journey.” – I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish – now known simply as “the Gaza doctor” – captured hearts and headlines around the world in the aftermath of horrific tragedy: on January 16, 2009, Israeli shells hit his home in the Gaza Strip, killing three of his daughters and a niece.
By turns inspiring and heartbreaking, hopeful and horrifying, this is Abuelaish’s account of a Gazan life in all its struggle and pain. A Palestinian doctor who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Abuelaish is an infertility specialist who lived in Gaza but plied his specialty in Israeli hospitals. From the strip of land he calls home (a place where 1.5 million refugees are crammed into 360 square kilometres of land), the Gaza doctor has been crossing the lines that divide the region for most of his life, as a physician who treats patients on both sides of the border and as a humanitarian who sees the need for improved public health and education for women as the way forward in the Middle East.
But it was Abuelaish’s response to the loss of his children that made news and won him humanitarian awards around the world. Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hatred, in this personal account of his life, Izzeldin Abuelaish is calling for the people of the Middle East to start talking to each other. His deepest hope is that his daughters will be the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis.