This Palestinian Muslim learned to forgive and love Jews after he was shot in the spine by an Israeli soldier.

Yousef Bashir will discuss, sell, and sign his memoir, “The Words of My Father: Love and Pain in Palestine,” at Commonpoint Queens in Forest Hills on Monday, Oct. 28, at 1:30 p.m.

Bashir was 11 and living in Gaza when the Second Intifada, a period of extreme violence between Palestinians and Israelis, began in 2000. Soon thereafter, the Israel Defense Forces occupied a 10-acre farm that had been in his family for more than 300 years. His relatives and he refused to give up their land, though, so they lived there with dozens of IDF soldiers in a de facto military garrison. The supervision was so extreme that they needed permission to go to the bathroom.

Bashir was angry, but his father was courteous to the occupiers, insisting on being principled and empathetic. Then one day in 2004, a single shot from an M-16 automatic rifle hit the 15-year-old as he walked on the farm with his father and some officials from the United Nations. The bullet ripped through his back so far that doctors could see his spine. He was paralyzed from the waist down.

His anger grew, but his father continued preaching calmness and acceptance.

Bashir underwent several surgeries and recoveries at Tel HaShomer Hospital in Tel Aviv. That’s when things started to change. Yes, Israeli soldiers had injured him, but now Israeli nationals, including several doctors and physical therapists, had saved his life and were spending countless hours helping him walk again. Jewish youth volunteers visited him to chat and play games. Hasidic groups sang to him. A nurse demonstrated tremendous care.

In the second half of the book, the plot thickens when his health improves to a point that he can attend a Seeds of Peace camp in Maine, where Israelis and Palestinians plays sports together and engage in discussions on peace and tolerance. Afterward, he returns to his homeland and starts studying at a Quaker school in the West Bank. Then he gets a scholarship to a boarding school in a largely Mormon community in Utah.

Staying in the United States, he earns a Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs from Northeastern University in Boston and then a Master’s Degree in Co-existence and Conflict from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. A Scoville Peace Fellowship and stints with Congressman Gerald Connolly, Senator Bernie Sanders, and the Partnership for a Secure America follow.

Currently, Bashir works for the Palestinian Authority’s mission in Washington DC. He has become a citizen and he plans to stay in the United States.

There is no set price to attend this book discussion, but the organizers suggest at $10 donation. Copies of “The Words of My Father: Love and Pain in Palestine” will be available for purchase.

Commonpoint is located at 67-09 108th St. The facility was the Central Queens Y from 1974 until 2018, when the nonprofit rebranded and merged with the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck and a few other agencies. The new agency offers a wide array of services, including childhood programs, senior care, and mental health resources, while maintaining athletic facilities.

Image: Yousef Bashir


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