Sheikh Salem and the Carob Tree

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Sheikh Salem has seen a thing or two in his 92 years on this earth. On a hot summer day, the RA branch office team found him lounging on a mattress outside under a large carob tree double his age with a moist towel shielding his head from the heat.  

As the patriarch of the family, Sheikh Salem still worries about providing for his extended family, including provision of a home that will allow them to grow and flourish, as he has. Born in Tayaseer, Sheikh Salem spent 40 years of his life as sheikh (religious scholar) in the Ein Beida Mosque. He was blessed with seven children from his first wife before she died and five more from his second wife. Over the years, he has become a grandfather and a great-grandfather to many!

Life has been bittersweet for this family.  On one hand, they own a large, picturesque plot of land dotted with many different kinds of fruit trees, which Sheikh Salem tended and harvested until the 1980’s, when he could no longer reach them due to the danger of the Israeli military exercises conducted in the area day and night. He came to live in al-Aqaba only 10 years ago, after a negotiation to cease military activity inside the village made it safer to live in the village and feasible for farming. 

For Palestinians, there are few things that are the source of more pride than the marriage of your children. However, one of Sheikh Salem’s daughters married in Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria, which has been under siege since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.  Another one of his sons, who lives in Algeria, wants to come home and marry, so Sheikh Salem recently sold one of his goats in order to buy him a ticket to come home.  Sheikh Salem is adamant about building a new home across the street from his home under the carob tree. While he is elderly, he is determined to leave a legacy for his large family.