Naomi with her parents and seven of her nine siblings
"I didn't regret my decision for a moment."
Yearly in Beisan
Naomi was born in 1934 in Beisan (today Beit Shean) to an Arab Christian family. Her father was a respected layman in the Anglican Church and a strong believer. There were ten children in the family, and they heard the gospel already in their early childhood. The parents gathered their family together every evening for devotions. They sang hymns, read the Bible, and prayed.
Before going to sleep, the children asked forgiveness from one another. If any quarrels had occurred during the day, they told one another: "I forgive you because Jesus forgives you."
The majority of Beisan residents were Muslims, but there were good relationships between them and the Christians. They always greeted one another during Christian and Muslim feasts.
Flight to Nazareth
In 1948, they heard rumors that Jewish soldiers would come to their village and capture it. They arrived one May morning at 9 a.m. and gathered the heads of the families together. They gave the villagers two hours to empty their homes and threatened that non-compliance would result in their deaths. But what could you take with you if you had ten children?
Naomi was thirteen years old and wanted to get dressed nicely. Her mother had dough rising in the kitchen. Before leaving, she managed to bake bread for the family. By 11 a.m., they were ready to go. Except or the clothes they were wearing and a few other items, they had to leave everything behind. Naomi's brother had a four-month-old baby daughter. All the villagers were placed into two trucks. The Christians were in a truck that was heading for Nazareth. Another truck took the Muslim villagers to Jordan.
Close to Afula, the bridge leading to Nazareth had been blown up. The truck driver left the villagers by the roadside, far from anywhere. They had to walk to the other side of the bridge. Someone called a priest in Nazareth, and he sent a bus. They finally arrived in Nazareth, but had no place to go. A dressmaker allowed Naomi's family the use of one room. Her sister was married and had two daughters and her brother had one daughter so, all together, they were a family of twenty-five with no home.
At the end of June, the school year was over and they were given the use of two classrooms in the school for the duration of the summer holiday. It was close to Mary's Well and they went there daily to draw water. It was difficult to feed so many people and Naomi and her sister were sent to live at St. Margaret's Orphanage School for two years. In Beisan, they had been a well-known family but in Nazareth they were refugees, and the locals reminded them of that fact. Over the following years, each one of them found a living and married.
Naomi became acquainted with a man from the Anglican Church in Nazareth, where she used to pray. They married and three children were born to them. Naomi taught the children to pray in the evening and before meals. Little by little, her husband became friends with non-believers and started to drink and behave violently. After fifteen years of marriage, another child was born to them. Gradually, the situation with her husband became worse. Fearing for the safety of her children and herself, Naomi had to flee after twenty years in a difficult marriage.
The Move to Haifa
Naomi moved with her four children aged between four and thirteen years to live in Haifa. In Nazareth, she had taught hymn-singing and the Bible for ten years at the Baptist School. In Haifa, she received similar teaching work at St. John's Anglican School. In Haifa, family life was easier but she had to work hard to support the family. Beside the school work, she also gave private lessons to pupils. Her children saw their father on weekends, whenever he was sufficiently sober. After two years, he died from the effects of drugs. The children married and are living in America except for her son, Halim, who has a good job in Israel and has been taking care of his mother.
Naomi has enjoyed teaching all of her life. Even since retirement, she has continued to give private Arabic lessons. In recent years she suffered a minor stroke. As her son was travelling a lot for his work, they began to think that it would be good for her to enter the Ebenezer Home. She knew the Home well having serve as a member of the local management committee and had helped needy people to enter the Home. It was not an easy decision, but in July 2014 she moved in and was warmly welcomed. A year later she said: "I didn't regret my decision for a moment."
Doubting Thomas - by Naomi Ateek
Naomi started painting here in Ebenezer, through our weekly art classes. She loves to paint Biblical scenes.