A Day in the Life of A Palestinian Immigrant
By Stacy Grow
A stay-at-home mother of three children, West Sacramento resident Nasreen F.’s life is currently filled with caring for her children and home.
Born and raised near Jerusalem in a tight-knit community in Palestine, Nasreen exudes warmth and joy as she remembers her life back home. “Everyone knew everyone else. You might think of us as a third world country, but we had so much fun!” Every day, her family typically received 7-9 visitors at their home, a constant stream of camaraderie.
Once, her family’s apartment complex was on lockdown for several weeks due to the Israeli occupation. Neighbors pulled chairs into a shared courtyard; cards and other games were played; food, favors, and necessary supplies were exchanged freely between households. This strong sense of community and interconnectedness are the things she now misses most.
Her life changed forever when she was 23. She had her Business Degree and was working at a bank at the time. An acquaintance from the neighborhood grocery store set her up with a Palestinian man who had settled in America, but returned to his homeland to look for a bride. After their first encounter in front of Nasreen’s parents and 4 siblings, the couple got to know each other through a supervised courtship. She soon decided that “he was a good man,” and 4 months later, they were married.
When she joined him in America, she didn’t know much English and how to drive a car. She was greeted with a large, empty house and no friends or direct relatives. For several years, she toggled back and forth between Palestine and Sacramento, uncertain where she wanted to permanently settle.
Eventually, she learned English and how to drive, and decided that she wanted to raise her family in America. She cites the opportunity for upwards career mobility here and the difficulty and dangers of living under occupation. Back in Palestine, life was constantly disrupted by locked checkpoints and violence.
Now, she keeps in touch with her family every day with Facetime and WhatsApp. She stays in touch with her culture by preparing the Palestinian foods she loves, such as maqlobh, a layered dish of cauliflower, eggplant, meat, and rice.
Still, being a Muslim mother in America carries a degree of fear. She brings her 5-year-old son to the Masjid Annur Islamic Center in Sacramento for Sunday school every week, but chooses to walk around and wait 4 hours rather than leave him here unattended. Her worries are twofold: that a “crazy white man” will attack the mosque, or that a “crazy Muslim extremist” might do the same. Indeed, just six months ago, a Muslim man was killed in front this mosque after attending Friday night prayer services.
If there was one thing she would tell Americans about Muslims, she says it would be this: “We are all humans in the same community, which we need to build together and not destroy. What hurts one hurts all.”