Ghassan Elashi was devastated when he heard about the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982, a three-day war crime led by then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon that left nearly 3,500 Palestinians dead in a refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. He was even more distraught when he read about the thousands of Palestinians who died after the First Intifada in 1989. Being Palestinian-American, Mr. Elashi felt an obligation to help the people of Palestine. So he and a couple other individuals founded the Holy Land Foundation.
Born in Gaza City in 1953, Mr. Elashi lived there until age 14. He and his family then moved to Cairo, Egypt, where he eventually got his Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Ain Shams University in 1975. He lived in Saudi Arabia and London for a couple of years before finally migrating to the United States in 1978. He lived in Ohio for several months and then moved to Florida, where he got his Master’s degree in accounting from the University of Miami in 1981. Soon afterwards, Mr. Elashi began working in a company that created the world’s first Arabic computer.
In 1985, Mr. Elashi married Majida and moved to Culver City, Calif. near Los Angeles. They lived there for about seven years before moving to Richardson, Texas near Dallas in 1992. There, he worked at a family-owned computer business and served as a chairman and volunteer for the HLF. Mr. Elashi and Majida have six children: Noor, Huda, Asma, Mohammad, Osama and Omar.
Mr. Elashi says this about the HLF case: “I do not apologize for feeding orphans and needy families. I know what the government’s goal was, it was to make an example of me. But they failed, because I felt a love from my community that I couldn’t imagine.”