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.