Family Portrait: Meet the Ateeks

College sweethearts live in Silver Spring with their son and daughter




The Ateek family outside St. John’s Episcopal Church (left to right): Tanory, Mariam, Sari and Naeem
. Photo by Liz Lynch

Sari and Tanory Ateek met when they were freshmen at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. Despite Sari’s many attempts to, as he says, “transition out of the friend zone,” the pair remained strictly friends for three years. Sparks started to fly when they went on a five-day camping trip in Scotland before the start of their senior year.

Today, the Silver Spring couple has two children, 9-year-old Naeem and 6-year-old Mariam. An Alabama native, Tanory is a yoga and Zumba instructor, and also teaches drama, music and mindful movement at Silver Spring Day School. A Palestinian Christian, Sari was born in Haifa, Israel, and raised in Jerusalem. He is the rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Norwood Parish in Chevy Chase.  

From Coast to Coast: “I had more culture shock moving from LA to D.C. than I did from Jerusalem to Alabama,” Sari says of his family’s 2010 move to Silver Spring. “People take life very seriously here.” Tanory adds: “When we first got here, meetings on Saturdays were a big thing, and we were like, ‘What? Who meets on a Saturday?’”

Family Time: The Ateek family goes on weekly hikes along Northwest Branch Trail, where Naeem and Mariam love climbing rocks. On Friday nights, you’ll often find the family at The 4 Corners Pub in Silver Spring. When the weather’s nice, Sari and Tanory like to sneak out on Sari’s red Vespa for a scooter ride through Rock Creek Park.

The Holidays: “Christmas is overwhelming because Sari is so busy, so it all falls on me to get gifts,” Tanory says. To simplify the process, she gives four gifts to each of her kids: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.

Religion in Modern Day Life: Sari says a lot of couples join the church when they have young kids and want to provide them with a spiritual foundation. “I think everyone has needs, and we know that money doesn’t make people happy,” he says. “People are always searching for something.”

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