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Two months into war, a Palestinian doctor and an Israeli activist's son unite in calls for peace


The conflict zone may be half a world away, but Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is living it every day in his Toronto home.

"The whole of my (life) is suffering," said Abuelaish in a one-on-one interview with CTV National News Correspondent Heather Butts.

The Palestinian Canadian, consumed by the devastation in his community and loss of family members, says, "I expect the worst."

"Every morning when I hold my cellphone, I expect something happening to my brothers or sisters. And it's not even about my close relatives, it's about my people there with whom I was raised," Abuelaish continued.

Born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, he became the first Palestinian doctor to get a staff position at an Israeli hospital, where he promoted equality.

A proponent of peace between Palestinians and Israelis, Abuelaish has dedicated his life's work to healing and using health as a means for reconciliation.

None of his efforts though have spared him from tragedy. In 2009, he lost three daughters and a niece when an Israeli strike hit his Gaza home – the devastation continuing in the recent conflict, with more than 20 members of his extended family killed.

An undated photo of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, centre, in Israel. (Contributed)

"As a gynecologist when I deliver the babies, the cry of the newborn baby is a cry of hope and life, but these days as I feel it, as I watch it, we are killing the life. We are killing the hope. We are killing the future," Abuelaish said.

Still, the doctor, author and professor holds onto his values and tries to live without hate.

"I am not broken or defeated or afflicted with destructive disease called hatred. I am stronger, more determined, I kept moving forward and not to allow all of the challenges to affect me, the opposite," he said.

The Nobel Peace Prize nominee has long advocated against revenge, but calls on the international community to do more.

"We need to acknowledge the big elephant in the room, and that the Palestinians' life matter as equal to the Israelis. The Palestinians' freedom matter as equal to the Israelis," Abuelaish said. "No other way than acknowledging the rights of all and this is what leads to what we call peace – peace is a relationship."

A relationship so many are working towards.

"People in the end are the same. We all want security, we all want well-being," said Yonatan Zeigen during an interview from Tel Aviv.

Pictured is the late Canadian Vivian Silver, who was confirmed kill in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel. (Contributed)

Zeigen's mother, Vivian Silver, was killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. Silver was a peace activist dedicated to bridging the divisions between Palestinians and Israelis.

At a time of great personal grief, he is finding strength in sharing his mother's message.

"Division and anger only lead to more pain. We need to put an emphasis on our similarities, the fact that we all have a shared interest, and to put our energies into solving our conflicts instead of deepening them," Zeigen said.

A son who has lost his mother, a father who has lost his daughters, united in grief and a call for change.

"This is such a great tragedy for me personally but for everybody and that's what she was working all her life trying to prevent," Zeigen said of his late mother.

"I hope that this catastrophe, her death and all of the others in Israel and in Gaza, would be a wake-up call for us in the Middle East and also worldwide, that war only brings death and pain and we need change."

As a physician, Abuelaish looks at treating the conflict the way he treats a patient.

"So the first thing is to stop the bloodshed, to stabilize the patient and then to deal with the root cause of the problem," he said.

For these two men, living worlds apart, their deepest hope is that more people will share this message of humanity and equality on a road to peace. Top Stories

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