Five years on, family keep open Gaza clinic of doctor killed by Israel

A detail of a photo of Dr. Ehab al-Shaer and his young son.

A portrait of Dr. Ehab Jasir al-Shaer still greets patients at his skincare clinic in the city of Rafah. Five years ago this week, al-Shaer was one of the first Palestinians to be killed when Israel launched a three-week attack on Gaza. Surviving members of his family have made sure that the clinic continues to function.

Al-Shaer’s father, Jasir, takes care of opening the clinic — now run by another local doctor — every Sunday and Tuesday, as well as paying its rent. It was Jasir who had to identify his son’s body on 27 December 2008. Jasir also lost his brother Yasir and nephew Haitham in the same explosion that killed his son.

On that day, Ehab al-Shaer visited the Rafah governorate building, along with several relatives. They were seeking to resolve a family problem in cooperation with the police. After hearing that the building had been hit in an airstrike, Jasir rushed to the scene.

“When I saw Ehab’s car, terribly damaged, outside of the building, I realized a disaster had taken place,” Jasir said. “I headed for the nearby hospital to find the bodies of the three people killed — including my son — in the morgue.”

“Backbone of family”

Ehab al-Shaer left behind a baby daughter called Rimas.

He was the father of two other children.

Umm Ehab, the doctor’s mother, said her son was “like the backbone of the entire family.”

“A few weeks after he was killed, we discovered that Ehab was providing financial support to about twenty local school children who were orphans,” she said. “You cannot imagine how generous Ehab was.”

Having studied in Ukraine, al-Shaer had equipped his own dermatology clinic. Described as “very ambitious” by his father, he had planned to expand his private healthcare business by bringing a number of doctors from Eastern Europe to Rafah.

Jasir al-Shaer and his family are well-acquainted to suffering and grief.

In 1948, they were forced out of Karatiya, one of many villages in present-day Israel that were ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces. Jasir lost two other sons in May 2004, when the Israeli military attacked the neighborhood of Tal al-Sultan to the west of Rafah city.

Almost 1,400 people were killed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli offensive lasting from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. Behind that statistic were 1,400 human beings, each of them somebody’s son or daughter.

Ehab al-Shaer was a respected dermatologist. But more importantly, he was a father, a son, a husband and a brother.

Like so many others in Gaza, his life was cut brutally short this time five years ago.

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.