Five years ago, Ali Al Jundi was traveling frequently for work, worrying about his family in the Syrian city of Salamiyah, where shootings, bombings, and kidnappings tore other families apart.
“Even in our hometown, some of my friends, they kidnap them, they took their cars,” Al Jundi said. “The situation became not secure, so I started thinking, I have to find a way for my kids to start a better life.”
In August 2012, Al Jundi moved to Massachusetts with a full scholarship to graduate school at Brandeis University. His wife and two sons joined him a few months later, in November. Together, they moved into an apartment in Waltham.
Sitting in the family’s living room Thursday with his 12- and 13-year-old sons, Al Jundi said the month of November will always be full of celebration — for the anniversary of his family reuniting, for his younger son’s birthday, for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Thanksgiving, for the American people, is how the Native Americans received them, and they are celebrating,” he said. “We are in the same position almost. Different in the timing, but we came to this country, and the people received us.”
Mohammed, Al Jundi’s older son, said he and his brother love celebrating new holidays, adding American traditions to the Syrian ones their parents taught them.
“I’m most thankful for just being here, having a great life, great friends, great family, and just being able to have all this stuff to be thankful for,” he said.
As politicians debate whether to allow more Syrians into the United States, this is what Al Jundi would like them to know:
“In the United States especially, it is the immigrants and the dream of all the people, persecuted people, marginalized people, this is their country,” he said. “This is the value.”