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"I am where I am because of my unrwa scholarship"

“In 1948, there were a lot of attacks in our villages at the time, a lot of casualties. My father felt uncomfortable,” shares Dr. Abed Musa. Dr. Musa was 8 years old at the time. His family was forced to flee Yaffa during the Nakba.

“We began walking from our hometown and we saw a lot of bullets coming through the wheat fields. So we spent the night there and refugees started coming, on donkeys carts and mule carts. I was watching from the balcony.”  

But with so many others fleeing for safety, there was no room for the family to stay. They took a tractor from the family’s business and headed towards a small mountain town. The mountain’s cold weather was very different from the mild seashores of Yaffa. To welcome the refugees to their village, Dr. Musa’s father was invited to a mensaf dinner, a traditional Palestinian dish made of yogurt over rice and meat. “You eat it with your hand, and I was shivering because I was so cold. By the time my hand got to my mouth, it was almost empty!”

Eventually, the family settled in a refugee camp north of Jericho, where they were provided a tent by UNRWA. Dr. Musa was able to restart elementary school after almost two years and attended an UNRWA school held inside a tent. “We had good education, but when it rains, you see the water under your feet,” Dr. Musa recalls. After completing 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades at the UNRWA school, Dr. Musa went to a combination of government schools in Jericho and schools in Amman to finish high school.

Upon graduating, he found out that he was being considered for an UNRWA university scholarship through radio and newspaper announcements. “I was ecstatic,” he shares, when he was selected for a scholarship for the American University of Beirut.

“To come out of refugee camp and live in Ras Beirut -- it was a big shock for us,” remembers Dr. Musa. There were 11 students selected for the AUB scholarship, several of whom Dr. Musa still keeps in touch with. After graduating, Dr. Musa got married and moved to Saudi Arabia to work for Aramco, then known as the Arabian-American Oil Company.

The first thing we did was educate our families.
— Dr. Abed Musa

While at Aramco, he sent a large portion of his salary back to his family to pay for his siblings’ education. “I could have gone to the States with many of my classmates and started my postgraduate education and specialization in medicine.  But I worked to help my family.” His lifelong commitment to education has rippled throughout his family, helping family members become doctors, pharmacists, and lawyers.

In 1971, Dr. Musa, his wife Sultana, and their son Hassan immigrated to the United States so that he could attend medical school at Syracuse Upstate Medical Center, now known as SUNY Upstate Medical University. He began his residency in obstetrics and gynecology, but was encouraged to study gynecologic oncology, which was an emerging subspecialty, by the oncologist at the hospital.

Dr. Musa’s career as a gynecologic oncologist spanned 37 years before he retired. He credits UNRWA for his success and his ability to give back to his family and those in need.

“I was a refugee at the age of 8, and I still believe UNRWA did a great thing for us. When I finished school and was educated through the UNRWA scholarship, I felt I was helped so much. I felt the need to give back and I did all my life give back to help educate people, to help anybody that needs it.  This is what I learned through UNRWA when I got my scholarship.”

You can help bright Palestine refugee students realize their educational potential and dreams in the same way Dr. Musa did by funding a full tuition scholarship or by donating any amount you can to the UNRWA USA University Scholarship Fund. Thank you for funding the future!