Thank you for considering helping me raise the funds I need to attend college. My name is Noor Abu Rabie, I was born and raised in Nablus, Palestine. I’m currently a senior looking forward to studying in the USA. I’m in the top 5% of my class and my GPA is a 3.9 on a 4.0 scale, which qualified me to be a member of the Competitive College Club in the West Bank, Palestine. For the first time, I really do muster up the courage to share my story online so I hope it reaches you well.
My parents divorced when I was in third grade. I was calling my dad, while sitting alongside my mom and older siblings. Someone that isn’t my dad picked up. I put the phone on speaker so that my mom could talk. “Can we please talk to Radi?” My mom politely asked. Some woman replied, “Who am I talking to?”
My mom said, “I’m his wife, and who are you?” “I’m his wife too,” said the woman. I’ve never seen mom so hurt. I saw my sibling burst into tears, I wasn’t sure why. Nevertheless, I started crying with them.
Since that day I immediately became introverted. I’d spend hours in my room writing. It took me a while to understand what really happened. I figured it wasn’t acceptable to be outwardly emotional in my extremely conservative culture. My society honors customs and values generosity, but it also puts a heavy emphasis on traditional family ties. When it comes to divorce in Palestine, the woman is held responsible for her failed marriage and often looked down upon, while the man is treated with sympathy and given the benefit of the doubt. Even as this stigmatization of divorced women slowly changes, ending a marriage remains taboo.
As a child of divorce, I was not immune to the constant gossip and labels that surrounded me in my community. Everyone knew that my parents divorced and my dad wasn’t present. My self-esteem plummeted. The divorce cut me deeply; my number one fear growing up was being abandoned again. My older brother and sister, unlike me, were desperate to get to know my father. They would visit him in Jordan every once in a while. They would direct their angry claims at my mom. I think my siblings were too hurt to realize it was as unfair to my mom as it was to us, or more. Even though I barely knew what “divorce” meant, I stayed home. One thought swam around my mind throughout my adolescence: I can’t leave mom behind.
My dad never called to check on me, he stopped being a dad at all. He divorced my mom and so did his responsibilities toward his children. Only a teenager, I knew my family was not on good terms. When I grew up, I learnt that my dad has cheated on my mom but I also learnt that society justified it very well for men only. They say, “He is the man, he does whatever he wants”. I was accustomed to living in a patriarchal Middle Eastern society.
In eighth grade, I decided to visit my father. I was older now, and beginning to feel guilty about distancing myself from him. That trip across the border was one of the scariest journeys of my life – I had no idea what I would find. My worst fears were confirmed. During my first stay, I discovered he had a baby he never told us about. On my next visit, I found out that he had divorced his second wife and married a third. On what would be my final visit, I learned he had just fathered a new son. In large part, I have let him go. His selfish behavior – always following his own desires without considering their effects on those around him – made me furious. He broke my heart, and not once I felt emotions toward him, though I wanted to so badly. He never knew I wanted to become a writer or that I love learning the English language. As I was growing up, I internalized the pain of being the only one between my friends and cousins who never had a father at home. I never felt I was brought up in what is called a normal household in Nablus. I found ways to pull through bouts of depression while managing to transform this sadness into positive energy. I refused to believe “My dad is the man”. Yes, he is a male; but not a man. If he’s a man, I suppose he's not the man; at least for me”.
Until this very day I wonder why he left us when he could’ve loved us from a distance, I know he was orphaned from a young age; so why would he want his children to go through a similar pain. He knows exactly how hard it is to live lonely in this community with no safe haven. Thankfully, my mom has always led by example. She listened to her heart and showed integrity every step of the way. My mom, or so-called “A divorced woman” played the role of my dad; she goes to work early morning, comes back home at 4:00 pm, then cooks for us, and yet she still finds the time to love us and help us do homework. If I lost her, I’d be losing two people. I don’t know how she does it, I really don’t. She is my hope in this world.
Over time, I decided to leave anger behind, and no longer let the divorce weigh on me. I decided to change, to be a positive force. After a difficult adjustment period, I am now very attuned to the emotions and needs of others as I go about my day. I was healing step by step. I was becoming an extrovert. When I look at the old sad Noor, I tend to feel the difference now. Throughout high school, my teachers and administrations recognized my leadership qualities and my personality. I was chosen to become a head member of a student-run organization focused on giving back to the Nablus's community. We have collectively given it the name of Steps toward Change. We gathered money from local businesses and delivered food to needy families during the month of Ramadan. We couldn’t deliver more than 85 boxes of food since we didn’t have enough funding; due to the high poverty rates in this area. However, this experience meant a lot to me. This was the first time I got exposed to the suffering of others; I realized I was too consumed with my own.
The following year I started a program called The Environmental Revolution, through which students from my school spent time after school cleaning up local parks and raising environmental awareness in the community. Some of my teachers even joined. A year later, my friends and I launched a summer program called PalTeach (Palestinians Teach). It involved us teaching girls from the local refugee camps. Subjects included English, Art, STEM, and athletics. We knew that the conflict in Palestine hindered a good quality education for them, so we wanted to help even in the simplest manner. Those girls seriously mean so much to me; I never knew I was capable of giving so much love. I wholeheartedly want those little girls to grow up taking care of each other and embracing education as a means of achieving self-determination. I certainly prioritize education.
My mom saw that trait in me and pushed me to apply for a summer program at Yale University. Fearing I would get rejected, I refused. My friends told me “Let’s give it a try; we’ll apply with you too”. They supported me. To my absolute shock, once the program replied back, I was accepted with a full scholarship. Unfortunately, I found out none of my friends got accepted. I felt this was a sign for me to let go of my insecurities and smile back to life. I attended that rigorous university preparatory course in the United States, Yale’s Young Global Scholars program, where my major was International Affairs & Security. It was the best experience I ever had. While I was observing how students would casually mention that their parents are divorced; I admired them even more. I grew up believing divorce is a very shameful thing; so I never opened up to anyone. I came back home assuring mom that nothing is wrong with two people separating if they thought they’re incompatible, it’s just traditions that are wrong. Those incredible bright people, coming from a very different culture, made me look at divorce in a very different way, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Each and every one of those bright people had a solid plan for their future. What blew my mind most is that they’re so dedicated to their field of interest; they’re super knowledgeable and passionate. I felt behind in terms of figuring out my future. While trying to discover my potential at Yale, I realized I like discussing humanities and justice-related topics. It’s as simple as it sounds, I love helping people. I envision myself to start a non-profit organization and have my own team to work with and direct. It’s not only a dream; it is what truly makes me happy. I think there’s nothing more brilliant than a Palestinian woman with ambition and confidence. I want to embrace those who, despite their difficult circumstances, still have faith in humanity. Therefore, I started volunteering at an entrepreneurial organization called Faten. Its main goal is to grant small funds to unprivileged Palestinians with strong project ideas. I’m the youngest member, responsible for collecting customer’s data and helping them apply for the loans products available.
My mom was and still is super faithful in my academic capabilities and in my passion for majoring in humanities and justice. She was the one to make me apply to universities in the USA. Throughout the process, I applied to multiple schools and received half-tuition scholarships from the following schools: Ithaca College, Whitworth University, and Hult International Business School. I'm currently waiting to hear back from few more universities in the USA, and by then I'll choose the one that has the most to offer. On top of receiving a good education, I honestly wanted my mom to be so proud of me and to prove to all those who hurt her that she raised me well. I can’t imagine that after what my mom has been through, she has committed herself to pay for the room/board partially. I felt bad this turned out to be the case, but I’m also grateful it could’ve been worse. I want to repay her for all she has sacrificed for us, but I still think no matter how hard I try, it’s nothing compared to what she has given us. I promised my mom that if I go abroad in fall 2018 to study, I will keep up the standards she grew in me. I’ll be compassionate toward all, despite race, ethnicity, or religion. If I raise enough money to get through this school year, I will proceed with my dedication to joining an on-campus work program, and applying for more scholarships so that I earn enough money on my own to cover personal expenses throughout the next four years.
Thank you once again for reading my story and considering investing in my future. I appreciate it so much.