Where are you from?

I am from a small, Palestinian village in Israel called Kafr Qara. The name of my village means “village of pumpkin”.

What was it like growing up?

I enjoyed my childhood very much. My eight siblings and I grew up on our family’s farm. Our village did not get electricity until I was five years old, so my friends and I would play outside every day. We attended elementary school and high school in the village together.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I first came to the United States to obtain my PhD from New York University. After I earned my degree I gained employment at Cleveland State University, where I am currently a professor.

What were your first thoughts about coming to the US? Did those change?

I imagined myself going to Europe, but never to the United States. It seemed so far away. I was nervous to come to New York because of what I had seen in films. It seemed very fast paced and intimidating. Once I became more familiar with people and developed friendships, I became much more comfortable. I enjoy the individualist mindset that is so common in the United States.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

When I first moved to New York, I found it challenging to adjust to the culture of individualism in the U.S. Life is very fast-paced here, and many decisions must be made on the spot. It was sometimes difficult to determine whether people acted a certain way because of their culture or because of their personality. I would also feel trapped many times. I was worried that I would not be able to return to my hometown, or that if I returned to my hometown, I would not be able to return to the United States. I tried to always remember to keep my passport and visas up to date, but I was still unable to return to my hometown when my parents passed.

I also struggled with the language, public transportation, and adjusting to the quick rhythm of life. I still struggle with Cleveland’s winters, which are too cold for my liking.

What is your occupation?

I am a professor at Cleveland State University.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcome?

Clevelanders would pitch in and help me out. When I didn’t have a car, people would give me rides. My neighbors would invite me to their houses for holidays, and they would invite my kids to come play with their kids.

What traditions do you continue to practice?

I continue to celebrate my family’s culture with my children on religious holidays. I also call each of my siblings on those days.

What do you love about Cleveland?

I enjoy the nature of Northeast Ohio. The lake, parks and rural areas are very accessible. Cleveland also offers a lot of culture for a city with such a low cost of living. The museums, theater and cultural events are all very affordable, especially compared to New York.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

As a human, you have to help other humans in need. Refugees face many unique challenges, and it is important to help them through the obstacles they face.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

When you travel abroad, you meet new people and new cultures. This enables you to look at yourself and your own culture from a new outlook. You see other people’s difficulties and become more humane. It enables you to educate other and to educate yourself. International travel challenges you and changes you in ways that broaden who you are as a person.