May 1926- February 2014
Ahmad’s accounts of growing up on the Palestine’s coastal city of Jaffa included pleasant memories of visits by Jewish friends to his grandfather’s orange grove.
One of his earliest memories is of visiting his mother in the hospital shortly before she died, when he was 5 years old. “The passing away of my mother had a great deal of influence in what I wanted to do with my life,” Amara said. “It had a great effect on me.”
In a less peaceful vein, Ahmad recalled harsh curfews imposed on Arab towns by the British after the riots which followed the Palestinian General Strike in 1936, later known as the first Intifada, and his father’s arrest when he was at market ordering fruits and vegetables for his family.
His father, who graduated from the French Lycee, preferred that Ahmad attend the Friends Boys School in Ramallah for his final two years of secondary school. He then went to the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, But the war in Palestine broke out, therefore he went to University of Edinburgh, Scotland for medical school.
In the war, his father lost his business and his land, and Amara had to settle on a degree in microbiology. He also holds degrees from the University of London (Portsmouth) and Escuela Oficial de Idiomas of Madrid, Spain.
He then spent most of his adult life working at a pharmaceutical company that sent him to England, Spain, Switzerland and New Jersey. Amara and his wife, who passed away nearly three years ago, retired to Asheville in 1989, after being drawn to the area because of Mission Hospital and the College for Seniors. ”We searched around and decided we’d come to North Carolina,” he said. “We looked around until we found Asheville and decided this is where we’ll stay. … One thing we saw, in contrast to New Jersey, was that walking on the street in Asheville, people smile at you.”
Ahmad became involved in the community, taking classes at the College for Seniors and volunteering as an interpreter and at Mission Hospital. Ahmad, who was Muslim, also started speaking about Islam and the Middle East at local churches before he was asked to teach a class at the College for Seniors. Among his courses were: Islam: Religion and Politics, Myths and Realities; History of Medieval Spain; Islam: Faith & Way of Life; Middle East Contemporary Affairs; History of the Middle East; and History of the Arab People.
Ahmad was active to the very end working on peace & justice– he was slotted to speak to the Asheville Friends Meeting on Feb. 16, 2014.
He leaves behind two daughters, Nadia and Catherine, both in the United Kingdom, and six grandchildren; and two siblings in Jordan. His ashes will rest in Edinburgh, Scotland.
He was an active member of Kids4Peace, serving as Muslim advisor for the North Carolina camp. At the camp, Ahmad was a mentor to dozens of Muslim, Jewish and Christian youth from the USA, Jerusalem, and his native Jaffa.
This biography draws on Ahmad’s 2010 Asheville Citizen-Times story on him, his OLLI biography, and recollections by Beth Keiser.