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HerStory: Sahar Abuimara - A tale of finding solace through education and resilience amidst adversity.

Updated: Apr 18

Luma Alaraje (daughter) & Sahar Abuimara (Mother), Palestinian American, telling their story of Perseverance at International Women's Day 2024.

I am a Muslim Palestinian American woman, born and raised in Gaza, Palestine, to two refugee children from Yaffa city. I hold a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and have many years of experience in hospital and clinical pharmacy. I also volunteer to manage the pharmacy at Halim Clinic, a charity clinic in Holland. Growing up in Gaza under occupation and military rule, I had anything but a normal childhood. During those days of fear, uncertainty, and the struggle of daily life, I found refuge in reading and writing. As a child and teenager, I wrote reflections, poetry, and short stories. My refugee parents, who had almost nothing as children after Nakbah (1948), realized the value of education and strived to achieve the highest possible. My father became a Pediatrician and the head of the Pediatrics department at the second-largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, and my mother became an educator (school principal). "No one can take away your education, your knowledge, or your character." That was advice from my father that always rang in my ears, and I still tell it to my children. From my parents and my grandparents, who stood back up and made it through after a catastrophe, I learned perseverance.

After graduating from Pharmacy school in Gaza, I got married and moved to the United States. I experienced a cultural shock and a language barrier, and I learned that I could not work with my degree unless I transferred my license and redid my training, which was almost like starting over. I initially lived in Illinois, then moved to Ohio, then to upper Michigan, and finally to Toledo. During these years, I was building my family, transferring my professional license, and furthering my education, all while learning new cultures and engaging with communities of various backgrounds, especially during my years in the upper peninsula of Michigan from 2005 to 2019.

As a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, I knew I was a minority, but living in the Upper Peninsula was a different story. I was a very rare minority. For many people I met, it was the first time they had ever met a Muslim, let alone heard of Palestine. It broke my heart that people did not know the name of my home country or anything about my people's long struggle for freedom and equality. Moreover, they knew nothing about the vibrant history and culture of Palestine, so I felt compelled to tell my story. Driven by my faith, sense of social responsibility, and love for culture and education, I volunteered in schools, community events, Muslim student organization events, international days, and health fairs. I talked about my culture, and holidays, read books to school children, showed pictures, cooked food, and made posters.

Within my circles, I shared stories, reflections, and poems that I wrote, talking about my family and my people in Palestine and their constant struggle living under apartheid and siege, as well as their perseverance, hard work, and success. The struggle of my people has not ended since the catastrophe in 1948. My parents endured many adversities, and the suffering continued with me from childhood to early adulthood. Although I have immigrated and been living away for twenty-three years, the effects on me and my family are still tangible. Recently, my people, including my very own family, have been under unprecedented circumstances and have experienced massive losses and severe unspeakable atrocities. However, the world is not listening enough to them, and not hearing enough of their stories.

In my childhood, my grandfather Ali was a big part of my life. He was a refugee uprooted from his home and lost his property and farmland which was very dear to his heart. He told me many stories that felt like magic and made my mind wander and wonder: how would life be if he was not exiled, how life would be if we were able to return? Unfortunately, my grandfather and my parents passed away and never returned to their homes, and many of the details in their stories started to fade out of my mind. I felt the value of writing the stories, documenting all the details, telling the story, and extracting the lessons to pass on to the next generation.

As a woman empowered by the values of my ancestors and by the privilege of being part of this diverse and welcoming community where I can share and tell my story, I aspire to see a world where justice, equality, peace, and unity are valued and strived for.

Thank you Sahar for sharing your story via our #HerStory campaign and blog!

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