Thaer El Rifai, M.D. is a Canadian medical doctor practicing family medicine in Ottawa. Born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, he is one of the lucky refugees to survive and get out. He has written a short book about his experiences. In a video interview, I ask him about his book, and about why the refugee issue is not better understood. Read more.
Dr. Thaer El Rifai’s personal story is hard for a “normal” Canadian to imagine. “How can someone be “born” a refugee?”, one might wonder.
But while his stories of danger and deprivation, of fear and trauma, seem almost unimaginable to most of us, they are all too often “normal” stories when you talk to Palestinian refugees who now live in Canada.
Dr. El Refai is a medical doctor, not a polished writer, and English is not his first language. (In addition to Arabic, he also reads and writes Russian as he took his medical training in Russia.)
His book is a series of gripping short stories and anecdotes about different episodes or phases in his life, starting with stories his grandparents told him about life in Palestine before they were expelled in 1948, to living in terror under Israeli bombing attacks on his school run by Evangelical Christians in Lebanon, getting admitted to medical school in Russia and finally how he eventually succeeded in getting a visa to the USA and then to Canada.
While many Canadians are aware of the issues facing Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, the plight of the Palestinian refugees (there are now officially over 5 million of them) is much less well known.
In a video interview, Dr. El Refai explains why he thinks the refugee issue is not “on the table” today and why he thinks the “2 state solution” doesn’t really address their problems.
In his comments on the book’s jacket Dr. Refaat Alareer, a professor of English at the Islamic University of Gaza, and editor of “Gaza Writes Back”, writes:“There s a Palestine that dwells inside all of us, a Palestine that needs to be rescued: a free Palestine where all people regardless of color, religion, or race coexist”, observes
Dr. El Rifai’s book may not have the polish of a Pulitzer prize, but it has the ring of authenticity. Canadians will find it eye-opening… and shocking.
Comments? Should the Palestinian refugees have the “right to return”? Can the Jews in Israel learn to share the land? What should happen to the Jews living in Israel today?