The importance of the teacher

ds. The book “I shall not hate”, which was discussed in Current Concerns No. 4 of 27 February 2024, is moving. In it, Palestinian doctor Izzeldin Abueleish talks about his childhood in a Palestinian refugee camp, that was not a real childhood, like the childhood of most Palestinians. When he was seven years old, as the eldest son, he was already expected to help the family by earning money. He talks about the misery he grew up in, the dirt and poverty, the constant threat of war, about his family, life in the Gaza Strip, his education and his work in an Israeli hospital. Three of his eight children were killed by Israeli tank shells. But despite all the suffering he has experienced, he remains adamant: “I shall not hate”.
  According to Izzeldin, hate is a disease that prevents healing and peace. “We need something like an immunization program that injects people with respect, dignity and equality, one that inoculates them against hatred”. he writes (p 197). He is certain that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want to live side by side. But they are determined by extremists on both sides, and given the misery in which people live, it is easy to incite them.
  For Izzeldin, there is no difference between Palestinian and Israeli new-borns. He is convinced that the mothers who gave birth to the children can do a lot to find a common path.
  The Palestinian mothers are heroes. They are the ones who make survival possible. They feed everyone before they take anything for themselves and never give up. “My mother”, he writes, “was like a lioness when it came to protecting us, but she never relented on how much she demanded of us. She expected me to give as much as she did to the effort of improving our situation, and when I failed, I paid for it with beatings”. (p. 47)
  Izzeldin started school at the age of six. He realised early on that a good education was the only way for him to escape the circumstances he was living in. He spared no effort to achieve this goal, but without teachers who opened doors for him and encouraged him again and again, he would not have reached his goal. He repeatedly returns to what school and teachers meant to him. He writes:
  “That first year at school, I had three different teachers. One sat on a chair and passed out textbooks for us to read, and another gave us music lessons, which I liked a lot. The third was a man who acted as though he’d discovered a student in me. He paid so much attention to me that by the end of the year he had thoroughly convinced me, a first-grader that I could learn anything I wanted to learn and become anything I wanted to become. He was an extraordinary man.
  The school was crowded. We sat three to a desk with sixty kids in every class, but I could hardly wait to get there every morning. I loved being at school, enjoyed the challenge learning new things, and when the teacher asked a question, my energy level shot up as I raised my hand to answer. New information was like a gift to me”. (p. 42)
  He continues: “I was growing up, but today I look back and am thankful for getting through it at all, thankful for the teachers who daw a brighter future for me. I was lucky that so many of my teachers reached out to help me. They are the ones who boosted my energy and gave me the self-confidence to carry on. It was the teachers rather than my parents who opened doors for me and let me know there was a future apart from the grinding poverty in which we lived.” (p. 46)
  When he looks back and thinks of his mother, he sees the woman who demanded that he succeed despite all the obstacles in his way. And he thinks of Ahmed Al Halaby, the first-grade teacher who made him feel like anything was possible. “I learned from both of them that I was on the right path, and I cherish and honour their memories”. (p. 68)  •

Abueleish, Izzeldin. I shall not hate, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London, ISBN 978-1-4088-2209-8

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