|Naima Saadeh Abudayyeh:
Naima Saadeh met Hatem Abudayyeh when he came
from Chicago to visit the Middle East. Now,
nine months after meeting, they are preparing
to celebrate their engagement in the West
Bank and marry two months later in the U.S.
Naima's experiences of growing up in an occupied
territory have had a profound effect on her.
Her mother, Um-Mujahed, recounts how she hid
in a cave on the outskirts of town with other
residents of her village during the 1967 war,
which began the Israeli occupation of the
"In 1967, about a hundred of us hid in
here," remembers Um-Mujahed. "I
swear we were on top of each other like sardines.
We hid from the bombs all night. In the morning
[the Israelis] were in the village. Someone
said, "they’ve taken the land,
everybody run." We picked up and went
to Ramallah. It’s been over thirty years
After Naima’s father died when she was
two, her mother took a job as a laundress
at the Dar-Al Tiffil orphanage. This allowed
Naima and her four sisters to live and attend
the school there. Um-Mujahed has been doing
the orphanage's laundry for 19 years, sacrificing
her own ambitions to ensure that her children
"There was never a thing that she didn’t
give to us," says Naima. "If she
could give us her soul, she would give us
her soul. And I wish I could make her comfortable,
as she has done for me."
Naima and her sisters finished high school
at the orphanage. Her two brothers never had
the chance. In 1987, twenty years of Palestinian
frustration with Israeli occupation set off
a wave of violence. Naima's oldest brother
died in prison during the Intifada. He was
20 years old. Naima’s other brother
Jihad was a leader in the youth movement and
was arrested at the age of 13. He spent three
years in prison. "Prison is like a flower
that everyone in Palestine has to smell,"
Hatem has been living in his parents' home
in Chicago since graduating college. In anticipation
of Naima's arrival, he is renovating the basement.
Hatem has not yet established a path for himself
and his life revolves around his neighborhood
buddies and rituals like their weekly basketball
game. Plans for his upcoming marriage and
his wife's immigration are the biggest sources
of stress he's ever had to deal with.
Hatem’s parents were instrumental in
founding the first Arab community center in
Chicago thirty years ago, and meeting Naima
has revived his commitment to his Arab roots.
"When I first met Naima in the West Bank,
I met a type of person, an ideal of a person
that I never met before," he remembers.
"People that have been living under oppression
their entire lives—it was strange that
these people had any type of confidence at
all left. They fight through it."
Hatem feels strongly about Palestinian rights
issues. "I know Hatem loves Palestine
and would love to live here," says Naima.
"But I must go to the States for my future
and to grow as a person."
And Jihad, who spent three years in prison
for his role in the Intifada, no longer sees
the point of resistance either. "I don’t
want to fight anymore," he says during
a discussion with friends. "I’m
sick of it. I just want to get out of here."
When Hatem arrives in El Jib, he and Naima
have only three weeks to get her immigration
papers in order before the wedding. Hatem
is frustrated by confusing paperwork and the
bureaucratic maze Naima and her family must
navigate in order to leave the country, especially
the permit process required to enter the Tel
Aviv airport in Israel. Adding to the stress,
Naima must make up a final college exam, which
The whole family breathes a sigh of relief
when the visas come through. And when they
learn that Naima has passed her make-up exam,
they celebrate. "Thank God," says
Um-Mujahed. "My heart feels better after
all the pain. I’ve been waiting for
this day all my life. She’s been struggling
all her 25 years for this."
For all of Naima's self-assurance about her
future in America, she is distraught as the
finality of leaving all she has ever known
|Naima and Hatem
in El Jib
|While her mother
watches, Naima talks with Hatem in the U.S.