With fiery determination, a love for humanity at large and a simple message, Izzeldin Abuelaish delivered Monday’s Interfaith Lecture in the Hall of Philosophy titled “Preserving the Middle East Through Philanthropic Initiatives.”
Abuelaish is the founder and president of Daughters for Life. After an Israeli tank shelled his home in the Gaza Strip and killed his three daughters, he created the foundation and became an advocate for peace via empowering and educating women in the area to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“As a wounded, bereaved father who lost beloved children, I feel the suffering from all human beings,” Abuelaish said. “And I am here to stop the bloodshed and to restore the lost for a better future for all built on equality and justice.”
The war between the two countries will never end because a war can never be won, Abuelaish said.
“There is no victory in a war,” he said. “All are losers. A victory is not felt at the expense of innocent human beings. Is it a victory if hatred, animosity, bloodshed, pain and fear are increased? Is it a victory if it produces orphans, destruction and wounds souls?”
The only way to truly end the conflict, he said, is by coming to a mutual understanding via education.
“Education is the strongest agent for progress, change and prosperity,” Abuelaish said. “Education is about creating a world of justice and hope.”
Abuelaish said that education is needed especially among women in the area. Educating these women will not only positively affect them, but affect their offspring as well due to their caregiving role in raising children, he said.
“Women are agents of change and nurturers of a future generation in their communities,” he said. “They symbolize the spirit, virtue and longevity of their nations. Education of girls and women will generate a strong social return by breaking down psychological barriers and changing attitudes.”
The principles of nonviolence taught by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. inform Abuelaish’s belief that hatred is not the answer. Despite the tragic loss of his daughters, he refuses to succumb to the temptation of hating Israel, as he sees it as counterproductive.
“Hatred is a poison, which damages the one who carries it,” Abuelaish said. “It’s a fire that burns the one who is embattled with it. I will never allow it to impact me in order to achieve and to commit what I said to my daughters.”
It is this love for his daughters and denial of hatred that led Abuelaish to found the Daughters for Peace foundation. He hopes it will go international within the next two years and that the organization remains open to women who have suffered and want an education, regardless of their nationality, race, ethnicity or religion.
Abuelaish closed with a call to action for all to help bring stability to a region to make the world a safer place for coming generations. All people share this planet, he said, and turmoil anywhere is shared across all humanity. It’s everyone’s responsibility to do whatever they can to bring justice to all.
“We can come together to make the Middle East and the world the one we want,” he said. “A free, safe, secure, one for our future generations.”