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Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 1 Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed) July 20, 2011 Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Alhadi: My name is Esam Alhadi. In this interv iew we will be talking to Um Mohamed. This interview is recorded at her house in Ocala Florida at 10:30 AM, Saturday July 20, 2011. This interview is part of the Arab Immigrants Oral History Project of the University of Florida Digital Library Collection. Welcome Um Mohamed. Um Mohamed: Welcome. Alhadi: How are you doing? Um Mohamed: Thanks be to God. Alhadi: Let us start by asking for some personal data such as your name in full and place of birth. Um Mohamed: My name is Salwa Khalid Jabbar. I was b orn in Al Beera in Palestine. I have been living here for twenty two years. I got married twenty five years ago. This coming August will be my twenty fifth anniversary. I have eight children, seven girls and one boy. Alhadi: Can you tell us their nam es? Um Mohamed: My older daughter is named Layalee, followed by Karima, then Lina, Mohamed, Hanan, Nada and Serene. Alhadi: That means Mohamed is in the middle? Um Mohamed: Mohamed is the fourth child. He came after three girls and then followed by ano ther four girls.
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 2 Alhadi: How old is your youngest daughter? Um Mohamed: The youngest one is four years old and the oldest one is twenty two. Alhadi: How old is Mohamed? Um Mohamed: He is sixteen years old. Alhadi: Is he in high school now? Um Moham ed: Yes. He is promoted to the eleventh grade this coming year, and in two years he will graduate. Um Mohamed: Praise be to God. May God guard and protect them for you. Um Mohamed: Thank you. Alhadi: When did you come to America, Um Mohamed? Um Moham ed: My father used to live and work here, so I started to come here. Alhadi: Where was he living? Um Mohamed: In Louisiana. After I finished school back home, I started to come here to see my father and my brothers who were living with him and working. He owned a business. He also started to go back home for a visit every six months. Whenever the school was closed for the summer break, my mother used to send me over here. I had the green card which made it easier for me to come and leave. Alhadi: Th at means your mother was back home? e me and my younger siblings with her.
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 3 Um Mohamed: I finished school back home. Alhadi: What school? Um Mohamed: High school, then I went to a secretary school for one year. Alhadi: Was this all in Al Beera? Um Mohamed: It was a ll in Al Beera. Then I got married and came over here. I started going to a nursing school because I wanted to be a nurse. Alhadi: Was that here? Um Mohamed: Not in Florida. We were still living in Louisiana. After that I became pregnant and for t hat reason I deferred going to school. Children started to arrive before I started school. Alhadi: Praise be to God. Um Mohamed: I decided to forget about school, because taking care of children is important. Alhadi: May God grant you health. Who of your family brothers or sisters is living here in America? Um Mohamed: All my brothers are in Louisiana. I have four brothers who are all older than me and they all live in Louisiana. All boys, but I have one sister who is younger than me by eight y ears. She lived here for a while then returned back home with her children. She is now back home. Alhadi: Is she in Al Beera? Um Mohamed: Yes. She lives in Al Beera. Alhadi: Does that mean all you family is in Al Beera?
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 4 Um Mohamed: Yes, they a re all there. I have one of my maternal uncles living in Louisiana, another one living in North Carolina, and another one lives back home. All my maternal aunts live here in the States, except one of them who lives back home. I have a total of four mater nal aunts and three maternal uncles. Alhadi: Mrs. Um Mohamed, I want to ask about your relation with Arab and Muslim women here in Ocala. How is it? life, work, and children. This makes it hard to see each other. We get the chance to meet each other when we go to the mosque which is good. When there is a party, a graduation ceremony, or wedding, we get together and meet. We get very pleased when w e see each other. Alhadi: Is there a big number of Arab and Muslim women here? Um Mohamed: Yes. Thanks be to God. Alhadi: Are they from different Arabic nationalities? Um Mohamed: From different nationalities. We have Egyptians, Palestinians, and as I said earlier, we also have Ghanaians, Moroccans, and Saudis. We have many of them. Um Mohamed: Yes, we talk to each other by phone. Now Ramadan is almost here an d that makes us talk to each other even more. We talk about what each one should be cooking when we plan to go and eat in the mosque. We help each other. Alhadi: After coming here twenty two years ago, how often do you go back to Palestine?
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 5 Um Moham ed: We went two years ago. I took all the children and went there. They felt very happy there. I also went there four years before this last time. Yes, we go from time to time. It is expensive. Tickets are very expensive, and for a person with a big family like me will be even harder. We are planning to go next year, God willing. They would like to go again. Now they are grown, which is less troubling from traveling with younger children. It is easier now when I accompany them. Hopefully next ye ar I will take them. Layalee went and lived back home for two years. Karima lived there for two years. Lina lived there for one year and a half. I sent them there to learn the language and I also wanted them to learn about their religion. Their grandm other took them to Islamic school there where they learned Quran and Arabic. Alhadi: Was this in Al Beera? Um Mohamed: Yes in Al Beera. The school director was my cousin. I took them there, but when the Intifada broke out, I panicked and asked my husba nd to go and get them back. Um Mohamed: Now, here at home, do your children talk Arabic or English? Um Mohamed: I try as much as possible to talk to them in Arabic. But it is very very hard. Alhadi: How do they communicate with each other? Um Mohamed Arabic. They understand everything I say, but they answer back in English more than Arabic. Alhadi: Is this a problem to you?
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 6 c the way I and my husband do, because I want them to get married as I did from back home to somebody who including if the girl speaks Arabic and knows her religion and things o f the like. This is why they must talk Arabic. Alhadi: Good. Now, all your children are attending schools here. How do you see the school system here compared to back home where you studied? Um Mohamed: It is better here. Alhadi: Why? Um Mohamed: Edu cation here is better, because you have more freedom to move forward compared to back home. You have more choices here to do whatever you want or whatever you want to study. fe here compared with their life back home? Um Mohamed: If you raise them correctly according to the Quran and religion, they will know. They will know what is right and what is wrong. Thanks be to God, I have three girls in the university and none of them has any problem so far. Alhadi: What do they study? I know what is Layalee doing. Um Mohamed: You Know what is Layalee doing. Karima has been accepted into nursing school. She wants to be a nurse. Alhadi: Is that here? Um Mohamed: In CFCC. An d Lina is now in CFCC and she is doing psychology. Alhadi: What is Mohamed doing?
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 7 Alhadi: It is still e arly for him. Um Mohamed: Yes, he still has another two years. So it is not urgent now. We still have time, I guess. aware of their relations? I know that Arab an d Muslim parents are always have to bring them here so I can see who they are. I know all the Arab and American friends of my daughters. They come here and I know their families. I are mostly Arabs and Muslims. Alhadi: Um Mohamed, what do you think America has given you and what has it taken away from you? here. Not seeing your family is hard. This is why I usually take m y children and go to visit their grandparents. Both of my parents have passed away. None of them has seen my children. This is what it took away from me. Living abroad is hard. Over there back home, when you are walking on the street, you will find so what it has given me, it gave opportunities to my children and to my husband and
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 8 to all of us to grow, and to do whatever we wanted. If we continued to be living back home, we w Alhadi: Now, apparently you talk Arabic and English, do you speak any other languages? Um Mohamed: No. I only speak Arabic and English. Alhadi: Have you been to any country other than Americ a and Palestine? Um Mohamed: No these are the only two countries that I have been to. Alhadi: When you go to Palestine, do you go fly directly to Palestine or do you go through Jordan? Um Mohamed: I go through the Jewish state. I used to have an Israel i ID before I got married. When I came to America, I had to go back to renew my ID. I found this difficult, because I have to do it every year. It is very troubling and the Jews make too many difficulties to get this done. I lost my ID, but I still hav e its number which makes it possible for me to apply for a replacement anytime I want. Alhadi: Do you travel with your American passport? Um Mohamed: Yes, I have an American passport. Alhadi: Do you have any problem going there anytime you want? Um Mo hamed: Yes, but I face a few problems when I get there with the Jews. They give me some troubles when I get to the airport. And they make more trouble when you are leaving the airport. Alhadi: I want to go back to the subject of schools one more time. What do you think is the best thing about the school system here in America, given that all your
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 9 children are having their education here. What do you think is the best thing about the education system here in America? Um Mohamed: In this country they c hallenge the students more. My children go to magnet schools but I am not aware of what happens in other public schools. I repeat again, it is more challenging. All my children again graduated from magnet schools, and those who are still in school, they still go to the same magnet schools. Alhadi: We talked about the social life of your children: Do you think that the education system impacts their social life? We know that the American society gives the children who reach high school, space to socia lize. Um Mohamed: My children tell me everything. There is nothing in this house called privacy. I have to know everything. I have to know where they are going, I have to know what they are doing. They even tell me what grades they get in school. For those who are in high school, I usually talk to their counselors if need be. They let me come in and talk to them anytime I want. They call me on the phone if anything happens. Here in the schools they have a system where they let you sign your name and e mail address and they will contact you in case anything happens. For those who are in college, like Layalee, she tells me and her dad about her grades but it is hard for me to go and check on her grades at school. about privacy. in the future? Um Mohamed: I try sometimes.
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 10 Alhadi: I know that most of the Arab parents want their children to get into specific fields. Um Mohamed: I tried. My husband and I wanted Layalee to get into the medical field. At UF, she took a number of science courses. Two years into her study program, she decided that she wants to go into the law field. Alhadi: What do you think about her desire to become a lawyer? Um Mohamed: It is very hard. We told her it is hard even before she signed the paperwork. Alhadi: Why do you think it is hard? Um Mohamed: Because of her commitment to Islamic dress. It is very difficult for a girl like her to becom e a lawyer in this country. Um Mohamed: But there is a Muslim community in this country. Um Mohamed: I understand that, but I talked to many Muslims here whose sons and daughters graduated as lawyers. They told her it is very difficult for a Muslim girl who is committed to Islamic dress to become a lawyer. However, that is what she wants. Alhadi: How about Karima? Um Mohamed: Karima wants to be a nurse. There will be no problem for her to get a job. Jobs in the medical field are available anytime ev erywhere. Alhadi: After they graduate, if they wanted to go to work in a place such as New York or Los Angeles, how do you feel about that? Um Mohamed: No I want them to get married.
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 11 Alhadi: May God make that possible. But as for work, it sounds like you want them to be in a place closer to you. Um Mohamed: Yes, I want them to be not too far away from me and my husband. Alhadi: And if not? Um Mohamed: We will see. When the time comes, we will see what we will do. Alhadi: How is family life here i n Florida? Is it easy to raise a family here? Um Mohamed: It is hard to raise a Muslim family here. Alhadi: Why? Um Mohamed: Not only in Florida. It is hard to raise a Muslim family anywhere in the take control of their education from the very beginning on a religious basis, and also to tell them what is right up of what they do, otherwise they will get lost. This is a very difficult country to raise a Muslim family. The outside influence is heavy. It is always important to make stress on our religious beliefs such as prayers, fasting, and others. Alhadi: Do Arab and Muslim families help each other? Um Mohamed: They do. One case is that I and a Muslim friend of mine, we usually help each other such that I take her daughter to school, she brings my children back home, and also I took her daughter to visit our homeland. I can ask her husband for help if needed. In one ca se, my daughter broke her arm and he is the one who contacted the doctor and made an appointment for me on the same day. They truly help.
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 12 Alhadi: Are you keeping regular contacts with your family back in Al Beera in Palestine? Um Mohamed: I call my siste r every week. I call my aunts every two weeks or Alhadi: Do you have family members in areas other than Palestine and America? Um Mohamed: No I do not. Alhadi: You as an Arab woman, how do you think the American society is seeing Arab women in general? have a friend who recently put on the Islamic dress and she is facing many troub les. She always hears people talking about her when she is in a shopping area. For my daughters, they wear Islamic dress because they wanted to do that themselves. Layalee wanted to put on this dress since she was a little girl. I told her that you sho uld wait until you fully understand why you want to this. I was worried that it may give them some trouble in school although they never reported to me any problem of this kind. This friend of mine is constantly facing troubles. I and my daughter Karima do not cover up, and for that reason we face no problem. Alhadi: Why do you think such behaviors happen from individuals in the American society? like that before 9/11 and I am not aware of any mistreatment against Muslims before that date. I think 9/11 made it difficult for Muslims here.
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 13 Alhadi: We are approaching the end of this interview. We are very pleased to be in your house today. You mentioned that you hav e brothers here in America. Where are they and what are they doing? Um Mohamed: My sister is back home. She is not working. My four brothers are in Louisiana. Alhadi: Are they all in Louisiana? Um Mohamed: Yes, they are all in Louisiana. They have g to college after finishing high school. Alhadi: What part of Louisiana? Um Mohamed: New Orleans. Alhadi: Were they there when Katrina struck? Um Mohamed: Yes, and my mother was there too before she passed away. They di Alhadi: Did they leave New Orleans? Um Mohamed: They went to another place. I called an aunt of mine in Californi a and she told me where they went. Alhadi: Where did they go? Um Mohamed: They went to Baton Rouge in Louisiana. Thanks be to God, nothing bad happened to them. Alhadi: It must have been a very difficult experience for them.
Salwa Khalid Jabbar (Um Mohamed), 7 20 2011, Draft 2, Page 14 Um Mohamed: Very hard. My to walk. It was very difficult for my brother to take care of his family and my mother at the same time. Alhadi: Did they loose anything in their business or houses? Um Mohamed: Not that much dam age. The insurance company helped them. His store was flooded. Alhadi: Thank you very much, Um Mohamed, for this interview. [END OF INTERVIEW]