MIDDLE EAST PROFILES: AHMAD EL-HINDI by Jeremy Gordon
Seated in a large leather chair with an unassuming demeanor, Ahmad El-Hindi can recall his pas- sage from Haifa to New York in 1946 as if it were yesterday. A nineteen year old Palestinian youth taking a seventeen day journey across the world, El Hindi’s passage shaped the direction of his life and his character. A young immigrant from a politically unstable part of the world, he came to the United States to obtain a university degree and make a living for himself. Perhaps emblematic of the “American Dream,” he is now the owner of a thriving business in the Central New York area.
A Palestinian who grew up in a village called Yabrouz just east of Tel-Aviv in the 1930’s, El-Hindi’s connections with the Middle East are strong and deep. Schooled in a private high school in Gaza and with family ties throughout the region, El-Hindi has made supporting Palestinian scholarship one of his most important priorities. He was most influenced by his parents’ fierce support for education. In fact, his very journey to the United States and ultimately to Syracuse University was driven by this value. “My father made clear the importance of a higher education,” he recalls. After teaching basic engineering in Palestine for a year after high school, he decided it was time to pursue a degree in the field which he had been passionate about since seventh grade. “But what were my options? Egypt? Turkey? If you wanted the best education you came to the United States for a degree. So I did.”
Yet fate drove him to Syracuse. In order to enter the U.S., El-Hindi needed a student visa. He visited the US Consulate in Jerusalem, where he received advice and assistance from the Consulate General, who happened to be an SU alum. Yet, even after a seventeen day trans-Atlantic crossing, El-Hindi admits that he still wasn’t sure about where exactly in the United States he was going after arrival: “When I heard I was going to New York, I thought I was going to New York City! I had no idea how far away Syracuse was.”
Now the unknown outpost of Syracuse has become home for Ahmad, and he and his wife have raised five children in its environs. As a believer in the city and region, he has made supporting students and Middle East scholarship in the area a substantial part of his adult life. El-Hindi was instrumental in paving the way for the development of a Middle Eastern Studies Program at Le Moyne College, and he strongly supported efforts at SUNY-Oswego as well. Syracuse University finally created its Middle Eastern Studies Program, and Mr. El-Hindi provided generous support. Today the majority of his contributions are set aside as both award and need-based scholarships for Palestinians to earn post-graduate degrees at SU. He hopes that increasing the level of education among the younger generations of Palestinians can help to reconcile the many problems they face.
Even with all of the crises and daunting challenges, El-Hindi remains opti- mistic about the region. He maintains that “a united fertile crescent that ranges from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Egypt is not far off.” With education crucial for cultural understanding and progress, El-Hindi’s own efforts are contributing to a brighter future. Today, Mr. El-Hindi owns and operates a firm in the Syracuse area called Filtertech, which designs and manufactures industrial filtration systems.
Jeremy Gordon is a graduate student enrolled in the MAIR/MPA Dual Degree Program at the Maxwell School.