New book: The Road to Nablus
The Road to Nablus is the extraordinary fictionalized true story of the author’s father, Abed Hadi, and his escape from a Palestinian refugee camp in the 1940s, chronicling his remarkable journey to his eventual home in St. Louis, Missouri.
As a young boy Abed Hadi survived a massacre, a death march through the desert, and a life of extreme poverty in a Palestinian refugee camp. Facing impossible odds, and an angry, jaded father, Abed knew that education would provide his only way forward and out. Despite the lack of support from his father, and indeed no funds to pay for a gas lamp at home, he persevered throughout his schooling by studying at night under dimly lit streetlamps. Abed ultimately earned the top score in a national academic competition and won a scholarship to study medicine. He became a doctor, married the love of his life and settled in Belleville, Illinois where he worked as an anesthesiologist at Memorial Hospital for 31 years before retiring.
His story is the American Dream.
Here is a summary of the book in the words of the author:
My name is Bassam Hadi. I am a Palestinian American living in St. Louis, Missouri. I recently wrote a book about my father’s extraordinary life. My father lived through the Palestinian atrocities of 1948 and became a refugee in Jordan.
In July 1948 he and his family were forcibly expelled from Lydda, Palestine. He was only 8 years old at the time, but he survived the massacre of Dahmash mosque and the subsequent desert death march to Jordan. His family had everything taken away from them. They were relocated to a refugee camp called Askar Camp in Nablus, Jordan. There, in a 10 x15 tent, he lived with his extended family encompassing approximately 8 people. His immediate family grew and he became the oldest of 8 brothers and 3 sisters. Their poverty was extreme. They had no electricity, no furniture, no running water and scrounged for food. They slept on mats on a dirt floor, had no shoes and found what clothes they wore from garbage bins. My grandfather became jaded and angry after losing all hope.
My father wanted to go to school and study, but his father, my grandfather, thought this to be a waste of time and a loss of income with his oldest son not working full-time. So, he forbade it. My father studied in secret. When he was caught studying he suffered many beatings for wasting his time. He was not allowed to use the gas lantern to read as it was too expensive. He therefore studied and read under a street lamp on a street corner. Night after night, year after year, he studied there alone. Frequently he was barefoot with only a light jacket to protect him from the weather. He was very smart and became a tutor, tutoring other students and making a decent amount of money doing so. His father of course took all the money.
When high school graduation arrived, he wanted to take the exit exam. This test was not free. His father refused to give him the money to pay the fee. He was heartbroken; he would not be able to graduate. His mother found him under his streetlamp, crying. She tried to console him; she told him how she did not need a piece of paper to tell her how smart he was.
He replied, “I just wanted to graduate. To just once, accomplish something. Just to have an opportunity to be like everyone else.”
His mother had compassion for him. She went home and secretly sold the only thing of value she owned, her wedding jewelry. She gave the money to my father, who initially refused to take it, but she pressed him, “Take it. Do something good with it.”
He took the test.
Weeks later, they sat in their tent listening to their small radio, as the announcer read the names of the top exam scores in the nation. My father was announced as the top score in the Kingdom of Jordan.
By being the #1 student in the kingdom, he was awarded a full scholarship to the American University of Beirut. He studied there and became a doctor. He immigrated to the United States in 1972. He became a naturalized US citizen in 1976. He worked as an anesthesiologist for 31 years at Memorial Hospital in Belleville Illinois before retiring. He never failed to send money home to his family. He bought them a home, put his brothers through college, and paid for his siblings’ weddings. One of his brothers became a teacher, another an engineer, and another an accountant.
My father changed his life and his family’s future through determination, hard work, and believing in the impossible. That one scholarship, that one opportunity, is all that was necessary. He stands as a testament to the human spirit and an inspiration to all immigrants and refugees that life can improve. All that anyone needs is a chance. That is the American dream.
My father is now 79 and lives in St. Louis Missouri. He married his sweetheart, Wessal, a girl he was tutoring and fell in love with. They have been together and happy since 1966.
My father might be the only man I know who gave to everyone else, but he himself was never given anything of value. But one – the gift from his mother, a gift of love, a gift of opportunity.
This is my gift to him. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Bassam Hadi MD
Dept Chair of Surgery, Mercy Clinic South