Wajih Zeid was born in Beit Nabala/Ramleh, Palestine in 1944.
He immigrated to Manitoba in 1967 from Deir Ammar, a refugee camp near Ramallah, after two Canadian soldiers he met at a German coffee shop persuaded him to move to Manitoba. In 1968 Mrs. Zeid joined her husband and they subsequently sponsored his entire extended family with the result that there are now more than 500 Zeid family members in Winnipeg.
At the time of his arrival in Manitoba he could speak German and was skilled at meat cutting. His limited formal education and poor English language skills did not hold him back: he started out working long hours in humble jobs at Manitoba Sausage and a Chicken Delight outlet. In the following 50 years he built his own grocery empire with five Foodfare stores and a Chicken Delight.
Mr. Zeid and a fellow businessman Abdo El Tassi funded Al Hijra Islamic School, which offers classes up to Grade 9; employs a dozen teachers; and is housed in its own building. Together, the two men also started Winnipeg's first mosque, on Hazelwood Avenue in St. Vital.
Mr. Zeid has strong ties to Palestine, which he visits several times a year. He is known for his generosity and leadership in the Canadian Palestinian community. Mr. Zeid founded the Arab Canadian Association of Manitoba - ACPAM more than ten years ago which has now evolved into CPAM. In gratitude of Mr. Zeid's work he is our Honourary Chairman.
Suad Daher Zeid
Ms. Zeid was born in Beit Nabala/Ramleh, Palestine in 1946.
She came to Winnipeg in 1968 to join her husband Wajih. As a Palestinian woman she survived occupation, expulsion and the intolerable conditions of refugee life. She spoke only Arabic when she arrived, taught herself English, and quickly integrated with her new community.
A mother of seven and grandmother of 38 and the owner of a famous food chain in Winnipeg, Ms. Zeid serves as an extraordinary example of ingenuity, perseverance and ability to survive. She participates in all mosque functions, cooked free meals for newcomers, students and workers. She also worked as a volunteer at the Arabic school where she assisted and coached widowed mothers, taking them under her wing, and showed them the way of life in Canada.
Ms. Zeid is a gifted dress maker and storyteller, she maintained her language, preserved her culture and the narrative of her expulsion through her dresses that she proudly wears and speak of her identity showing determination and unbreakable attachment to the land.
Wardeh Najjar (Im George)
Wardeh Najjar was born in Jifna/Ramalla on September 27, 1923. She is a cultural and historical icon in the Canadian Palestinian community.
She arrived in Manitoba in 1979 from Jerusalem. She is an oral historian with memories of the plight of Palestinians going back almost 90 years, which she is able to recall and retell with compelling vividness.
She lives independently and continues to prepare traditional foods for Palestinian households for feast days, keeping memories and traditions alive, contributing to the awareness of young Palestinians of lives and wealth lost, sacrifices made, and is a living example of courage and the ongoing determination of living a full life.
Rahileh Zeid Nakhleh
As her family fled from their village near Lydd, Ms. Nakhleh was born during the Nakba, on May 15, 1948, under a tree where the Ben Gurion Airport is now situated. Initially abandoning her baby in order to flee to safety, Fayka, Ms. Nakhleh's mother, could not go through with it and returned for her, and then rejoined the others in their flight to safety.
Ms. Nakheh's early childhood was one of extreme deprivation and duress. Women, children and the elderly were ordered to march to safety in inland areas, living their lives in the open, sleeping in makeshift shelters and sharing what little food could be found.
In 1970, Ms. Nakhleh arrived in Manitoba from Deir Ammar refugee camp beside Ramallah. In her successfully integrated new life in Winnipeg she became the mother of six children and grandmother of 14 grandchildren. Although lacking formal education she is loved and appreciated in her community for her wisdom, kindness, her midwifery expertise, and her sound advice on reproductive health to women in the community, following ancient techniques learnt from the older women in the camps.