As a child, I was told to keep problems at home — being a Palestinian is something that wasn’t to be discussed publicly, most of the time.
While these things made me stronger in some regards, it definitely created a habit that reflected on what I saw growing up and continues to be the reality of who I am today.
I started a company that did that around the world, supporting organizations that support entrepreneurs who are launching or growing businesses, especially in under-served communities.
Today, I advise many to seek help, and see many immediately getting the support they need. It’s probably because I knew they needed help but wouldn’t ask for it. It’s probably because I have learned through my life that if you don’t know how to ask you might not ever ask ever, even when you are in deep trouble.
Even when I was homeless, I didn’t ask for a place to stay. Someone learned about it and said: I see you have luggage with you. Where are you going?
I had to respond: I’m looking for a place to stay.
They asked: Do you have a place in mind? I said: I don’t have money to find a place, so I sleep in my car.
That’s when they suggested I sleep in the guest room of the mosque in which I prayed. It was a guest room — no bathroom to shower, or kitchen to cook, but a place to sleep safely.
What I learned is that people will help when you ask for it.
But the fear of asking for help and the pride of being Palestinian — the belief that you don’t show weakness to anyone — continues to overcome me any time I need help. Many of you know I struggled with immigration issues for nearly 18 years without ever asking for help.
Now my cousin has been detained by Israel while traveling from the north to the south in Gaza. As you may know, the occupation power just chooses random people to detain — because they can.
His wife and son were — thankfully — released. We don’t know where he is being held, his status, or the reason for his being detained. He has no political or military affiliation of any kind, is just a guy going to work and trying to raise a family in an occupied territory.