I Shall Not Hate

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

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.