I Shall Not Hate

I Shall Not Hate

A Palestinian doctor chose forgiveness over revenge and the whole world is better for it.

In his book, “I Shall Not Hate,” Dr. Isseldin Abuelaish, the Muslim father who experienced one of the worst nightmares that can befall a human being, the killing of his three daughters, writes a story not of vengeance but of forgiveness.

During the intifada of 2009, while radical Palestinians were lofting rockets into Israel and the Jews were responding by leveling parts of Gaza, the doctor and his family were kept holed up in their home fearing for their lives. As the doctor played with two of his children in the living room,
an Israeli rocket tore through the bedroom occupied by his three daughters.

Surely, no one would have been surprised had Dr. Abuelaish gone on a rampage against those who had done this. His anger at the injustice of what had happened was palpable. But his just anger never morphed into taking revenge on the Jews.

In his book Dr. Abuelaish writes “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.”

As a Christian, I am humbled that a man, not of my faith, should live the words of forgiveness that are uttered in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.”

Most of the time, we muddle through life, flawed human beings that we are, with lots of stuff on our plate that cries to heaven for forgiveness, the bad things we do, the good we fail to do, all part of the human condition.

So, it is heartening to have some bright moments in our lives when, seemingly out of nowhere, along comes someone who makes us believers again. We witness acts of generosity or of love that take our breath away. A woman prays for the man who was convicted of killing her son, a stranger dives into the ocean to save a child; a Muslim man forgives the Jews who killed his little girls.

In the Jewish religion, there is a wonderful myth that speaks of the angels in our lives. With every good deed, every mitzvah, no matter how small, we add another angel to the world. These angels do not disappear. They remain as a kind of rainy day fund that helps to balance out the evil that is committed. The more angels we can collect, the more in balance our world will be.

I like to think that the Palestinian physician who chose love over hate, forgiveness over vengeance, has unleashed a million angels on our world.
At least for a moment, we are in balance again.

Occupy Movement Should Try a softer sell?

When my dad was chairman of the parish charity drive in Buffalo, he never tried to shame or bully rich folks into contributing more to the drive each year. His approach was to sit down with the potential large donors and respectfully point out to them the opportunity they had to really make a difference in the community.

He talked about the legacy they would leave and how their family name would always be honored by succeeding generations. Dad made them feel that he was doing them a favor by giving them the opportunity to share their wealth. The technique worked. Holy Family Parish never once failed to exceed their goal.

I was thinking of my dad’s respectful approach the other day while watching the confrontations taking place all over the country that were being portrayed as “US” VS “THEM.” True, in most cases, the rallies were non-violent and conducted with a surprising degree of civility. But there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that “we” the 99% are the victims and “they” the 1% are the perpetrators.

Is it that simple? I don’t think so. It was not only the very rich who were guilty of raw greed. Middle class folks salivated at the money they thought they could make by investing in shaky real estates investments. We, the 99% have contributed to the way our congress operates by voting in many of the rascals who are in office today or causing the same result by not voting at all.

Rather than simply attacking the rich for our problems, we need to effect change by acknowledging that there is enough blame to go around and then calling on the rich, not as aliens, but as fellow human beings to help us find solutions together. Help them to realize the vital role their wealth can play in making a difference in our world.

If that sounds hopelessly naïve, bordering on the whimsical, I submit that the way of mutual respect beats the hell out of calling one another names and coming to the impasse where we now find ourselves. Dividing the world into “us” and “them” gets us nowhere; never has.

I’m reminded of Frederick Franck’s words, “The derelict asleep on the pavement under a jute sack is disquieting because he is me, after the always possible catastrophe. We were both lovely babies last week, aggressive teenagers yesterday, the corpses of tomorrow morning.”

We’re all in this together, mates.