(Part 1 of 2) I was born in Palestine, in a village south of Haifa, and when I was still a baby, my father was kidnapped. At that time, he was considered a leader in the village. He had cattle, olive and almond orchards, an olive press, a wheat mill, and about 140 people working for him. One day, a Jewish friend warned him. He said, ‘You are a rich man, sell your land, go to Cairo, go anywhere, because there is no future for you in Palestine.’ And my dad looked at him and laughed and grabbed a handful of dirt and said, ‘Smell it, this is my blood and sweat. I want to die here. I’m not moving.’ Five months later, he was taken by an armed Jewish group, without any justification.
Soon after, the war of 1948 began, and we started receiving shelling from the sea, so my mother took all the children to the caves for safety. A few weeks later, she went back to find that our home had been bulldozed. They destroyed around 400 villages at that time, to prevent people from coming back. My mother didn’t know what to do. To avoid the shelling, we walked at night and hid during the day time. Finally, we were taken across the border to a Syrian refugee camp.
Two years later, my father was released in a Red Cross prisoner exchange. We had thought he was dead! As soon as he arrived, he found us an apartment. Next, he tried to find a way to make money – but one big barrier was that he was illiterate. He was a very clever man though, very business oriented, so he bought a big basket and started buying eggs and taking them to the city to sell. Slowly, slowly, his business grew – soon he had 4 baskets, and then one year later, he opened a little shop. Because he knew the Koranic verses, he started going to people with the Koran and asking them what the words were. And through that way, he learned to write, and started keeping books, and his own ledger.
We grew up working with my dad. We woke at 4 am, by 6 we were in the shop. By 8, we were in school. My father encouraged us to have a good education. He said, ‘Look, I had everything in Palestine – land, cattle – but I couldn’t take it with me. If I had education, it would be with me for the rest of my life.’
Then, when I was 7, the house we were living in had to be demolished to make way for a new road. And because there were so many refugees by then, we couldn’t find another house, and had to go to live in the refugee camp. Life was really harsh there. We lived in a tent. When it was cold, we had to light a fire inside, and there was no ventilation, so we were always coughing. But still we went to school, and my dad still had the shop.
A few years later, we started building mud brick walls inside the tent, and our refugee camp eventually became a shanty town. We had to build those houses more than once. All my life I was making those mud bricks. Sometimes we would wake up and it would be raining and leaking. As a kid, I felt all that stress and instability in my life and I had just one objective – to finish my education and find a place that was safe.
But to go to university, you needed to go to the big cities, and you needed money. There were scholarships provided by the UN for refugees, but there were only 40 a year for the whole area – Syria, Palestine and Jordan, and around 4000 people competing for them. Well, my brother and I decided to apply and we were both approved. I went to Alexandria to do Engineering, which I loved.
In 1975, I opened a consultancy business in Damascus which became very successful. I got married, and soon after, we had a son. Life was more stable. Then, the war of 1975 started in Lebanon, which reminded me that the Middle East was very shaky, so I decided to do a PhD in France, to get away.
I was happy there. I joined a research group who offered me a job in renewable energy, and I was working and preparing my PhD thesis at the university. But in the end, I couldn’t get residency. So, in my final year, I applied to come to Australia as a skilled migrant. And in a couple of months, we were approved.
Thank you so much to everyone who has signed up as a patron – I am now at 70% of my goal! Can we get there today? If you would like to join the wonderful supporters of the New Humans of Australia project, please visit: www.patreon.com/nicolagray?ty=h
#Australia #migrants #migration #Palestine
Thanks for sharing your story Ibrahim. You’re one truly inspiring human being.
He made the best of what he had and that was his dad. Never give up. Lovely story but so sad at the same time.
I wish to read more chapters from your inspiring life.
It looks like P.Dutton was right, this refugee was illiterate. At one point. We all were. And he is a huge asset- France’s loss, Australia’s gain.
“He said, ‘Look, I had everything in Palestine – land, cattle – but I couldn’t take it with me. If I had education, it would be with me for the rest of my life.’ “
An absolute inspiration and a beautiful soul Ibrahim with the most beautiful family! A community leader making Australian businesses better. x
Your story of strength and courage made me cry.
How truly lucky we are to have you here in Australia with us. I can’t wait to read the second instalment
Our country is so lucky to have you. We need more stories like yours to remind us of how good we have had it and how smooth our life is.
Wow Ibrahim what a life and what determination! It runs throughout your family… We are very lucky to have you here in Australia. Good luck to you!
What happened to your dad and the rest of your family? I hope that your brother was as successful as you!
Oh Ibrahim. You and your family awe me with your strength and resilience. Your family reminds me of my great grandparents and their courage. What legacies we have.
What an incredibly hard life your family have endured and yet you didn’t give up. What a wonderful role model you had in your parents and now you’ve seen the rewards of that hard work. Thanks for sharing!
What an amazing story not only his own journey but them perseverance of his father too. I hope at last he feels safe living in Australia
Very inspiring, this is one of the most amazing life stories I have ever read. You should be on Australian Story! ???? All the best
Alec Millard read part 1 & 2 (I think this is your boss) ????????
Thank you for sharing your story! What a strong determined loving family you come from, characteristics that you now show & share. Thank you.
Proud to call him my dad.
My amazing father, an incredible human x
Ohhh man, it makes my spine shiver, reading these stories especially when the people are friends and family. You draw so much inspiration reading of these stories. Thank you for sharing and we are very proud of your accomplishments. Well done Amo Ibrahim ????✌️
Ellie, not only should he be on Australian Story he is the Australian Story! Do not be afraid to work Hard and Prosper,Australia need More of his ilk.
He is an Engineer from Palestine, wanted to do PhD in renewable energy and ended coming to Australia!! This story talk so much about me! I would love to meet you Mr Ibrahim
We have no idea how easy we have it here. We need to open our borders to more refugees, we need to open our hearts & minds to the richness & diversity they bring to our shores & we need to hear these stories everyday, to be grateful for the life & opportunities we have
Such a great story and such a lovely. good hearted man. This doesn’t even touch on the inspiring story of his life, business and family in Australia.
I think these stories should be read to every child in school, so many young people with no self-esteem.,no confidence, depression, suicide yet the people on this page have had a far harder life but never give up. I think there are thousands of more bludging Australians then immigrants. And yes I am an Australian. My father was a cane cutter. Banana farmer and worked with many Chinese, Italians, Indians. I remember as a child him telling us that they were very hard workers and many roads in Australia were built by them.
What a great man. Thanks for the story. The thing I liked best is the total lack of complaining and lack of blaming people. What an asset to Australia.
Yes thank you for sharing your story, Australia is lucky to have people like you and your family. A inspiration to all love courage determination many would have given up!!!