Following the Philanthropic Example Set by My Family
I’m a Palestinian-American born and raised in the city of Anabta, in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Anabta, known for its vast olive groves, and recognized for its highly educated residents and their contributions in the arts, literature and sciences, is in the northern West Bank, on the main highway between Nablus and Tulkaram.
I came to the States in 1979 shortly after high school to pursue my college education. I received my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1983 and then completed my Master of Science degree in wireless communications at California State University, Northridge.
I come from a large family of twelve children. My father was a high school teacher for over 33 years and a farmer soon after his teaching retirement. An accomplished educator and strict disciplinarian, my dad instilled the importance of education into all of his children, and he religiously pursued his dream of ensuring that we all achieved the highest and best education. He accomplished his dream before he passed on, and this was his greatest pride and joy.
Although he had limited income to support our education, we managed to pursue our studies with the support of relatives, scholarships, and scholastic financial aid. In addition to family support and small scholarship grants, I took on multiple jobs as an undergraduate student in order to support my education, extending from on-campus tutoring, to restaurant dish-washing, farm work, and residential handy work and painting.
My wife of 29 years, Randa Atari, is from the city of Arrabeh, near Jenin. We are the proud parents of three wonderful daughters. The eldest, Nadia, is graduating this May with a doctorate in dental surgery and she is continuing to pursue a degree in pediatric dentistry. Jasmine is in her second year at IBM doing work in business and market development. Both Nadia and Jasmine are graduates of the University of California, Berkeley. My youngest daughter, Karam, is a high school senior graduating this year with top honors.
Most of my siblings still live back home in Palestine. However, like most Palestinians, some live in the diaspora stretching from the UK, the US, and as of late in some Gulf States. We are deeply committed and connected to the homeland both emotionally and financially. My own family has been very fortunate to be able to travel back to Palestine to be with our families on a yearly basis for the past several years. In particular, these trips with our daughters are extremely significant and allowed us to remind our children of their roots and to reconnect them with the land and their relatives in Palestine.
After twenty-one years of employment at an electronic engineering firm here in Southern California, where I assumed several engineering positions culminating in Director of Hardware Engineering, I co-founded a design and manufacturing electronic firm with some former colleagues about fourteen years ago. Like many start-ups, this journey which started in my home garage was fraught with risk. However, with sheer focus and determination, we were able to build and grow a company that reflects our technical prowess and values. Collectively, we built a company that is now considered the leader in the design and manufacture of GPS and cellular tracking devices for automotive fleet management and asset tracking.
I was first introduced to Anera in the early 1990s through my uncle Adel Barakat. He immigrated to the US in the early sixties and is considered the patriarch of the Barakat family here in the US, as well as a highly respected Arab-American community leader. My uncle has been a prolific philanthropist and a major donor to many charitable organizations here in Southern California, and back in our hometown, Anabta, Palestine.
The upbringing my parents provided, with an emphasis on lending a hand to family and community, continues to be my inspiration to give back. After years of sweat and hard work, I’m proud of my technical contributions in the field of electronic engineering, but also of my modest financial success. This afforded me the opportunity to support a number of non-profit and charitable organizations that share my values and priorities, of which Anera is first and foremost among them.
I saw Anera’s work first hand driving through the West Bank years ago when I came across several road signs with Anera’s name as the sponsor or funder of these projects. Their work supports various development sectors covering education, medical care, farming, and water projects among others, throughout the West Bank and Gaza, as well as other parts of the Middle East where they have been leading the support for Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the past few years.
I had the pleasure of meeting current and former Anera presidents in the past few years. I was delighted to host President Sean Carroll for a modest fundraiser at my house late last year. My generous support to Anera is based on my deep conviction of their commitment to live up to and uphold Anera’s mission and values. Their transparency, work ethic, and integrity earns them a yearly top four-star honor by Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates non-profit organizations in the United States.
Three years ago, I committed and donated funds to Anera to build a community center in Anabta that can serve as a youth developmental center to promote the arts, culture, entertainment, and education. We are still working on finding a suitable plot of land for the building. I am eager to move forward with the project as soon as we find an appropriate location, and we hope to kick it off soon!
Even after this war is over, the decimation of life and infrastructure in Gaza will take many years to overcome.