Ahmad Khalel is not an apprentice in the formal sense but that is what it feels like as he works at the Al-Basha sweet shop, located at 87th and Harlem Street in the Bridgeview neighborhood of Chicago.
A second-generation American, Khalel has returned to Palestine numerous times to visit family and even though all of his family has returned, he isn’t prepared to move to there.
Khalel said his biggest motivation for remaining in the U.S. is to further his education.
“You can’t get an American education over there,” Khalel said.
With his family in Palestine, he is on his own but the large Palestinian population in Bridgeview, also sometimes known as “Little Palestine,” gives Khalel enough of his homeland that he doesn’t get too homesick.
Comparing Bridgeview with Palestine, Khalel said both are relatively small but boast a thriving culture and nowhere can that be seen more than in Al-Basha, where Khalel said he enjoys meeting a diverse array of customers and sharing Palestinians the shop’s Palestinian treats.
“We get everything, white, black, Hispanic and of course Palestinian,” he said of his customers.
Al-Basha is just one of many Palestinian restaurant/bakery establishments in Bridgeview but Khalel said the family environment of his shop is what separates it from the rest.
“See how nice the place the shop is? See the variety? If someone in the family is not feeling well, you come to Al-Basha to get them a nice little treat,” he said.
Khalel hopes to one day mimic that atmosphere in his own Bridgeview sweet shop.
“After all, here is home,” he says.