Imagine having to walk everyday to school under the most brutal occupying force, like Israeli military. Imagine body searches at the young age of five and passing through several checkpoints just to make it to school on time. Imagine walking through bombs and gunfire, watching your innocent friends die all in the name of the “God’s chosen ones”. Imagine living through all this yet, still managing to stay on top and succeed. That is exactly what my friend Raffoul Saadeh has done, and it is an honor to get his side of the story from Palestine out.
Biography and Background
“Raffoul is a Christian rapper and human rights activist from Jerusalem. His music is inspired by the agony of war, suffering, and human loss. At a young age he vowed not allow Israeli assaults, race-based discrimination, and the thirty foot Apartheid Wall to block his musical and educational dreams.
Watching his grandmother get beaten and carried away to prison by Israeli soldiers, observing many family members imprisoned, passing three checkpoints every day to travel from his mother’s house to his father’s house-it was these incidents that inspired him to succeed. It was during his darkest and most painful moments, Raffoul would build his emotionally aggressive tone and begin composing deeply meaningful lyrics meant to bring his listener into a journey of his own pain.”
The following is my interview via Phone with the 23 year old Palestinian rap artist Raffoul Saadeh.
Me: Raffoul I was blown away by your talent! First question is how does a young Palestinian embrace rap and who what artist inspired you?
Saadeh: I mainly listened to Tupac Shakur growing up. He caught my interest because he spoke of issues, social justice and struggles.
Me: What would some of the biggest social issues or struggles be for Palestinian youth today?
Saadeh: There is much struggle due to discrimination and occupation. I think the biggest side effect of that is psychological impact which is caused by the violations of humanity. These are the scars that never fade from our lives.
Me: Tell me what was it like for you going to school under occupation? What was treatment like from Israelis? How and what kept you going?
Saadeh: My parents were divorced. My dad lived in Bir Zeit, Palestine and my mother lived in East Jerusalem. Between their homes are three checkpoints and the wall. When I slept at my dads well I would pass through three checkpoints going to school. Many times it would affect my tardiness. At least I had an Israeli ID which meant, I can pass through the checkpoints more conveniently. Most Palestinians are discriminated against and don’t have ids. They are trapped with no way to exit or enter but stay in Palestine. Many students would stop going to school all together because of the torture by the Israeli soldiers and the unlawful detention of kids. On many occasions, the soldiers would not let the students go through, even after waiting in huge lines for hours.
I kept going because I was so frustrated with the situation and mistreatment of us as a people. It began to eat at my mind and led me into a cycle of depression. But I would soon pull myself through because I wanted to spread the truth to the world.
Note* ( I would like to add this is the point of the interview that made me cry and realize what an incredible man I was speaking with)
Saadeh: I received a full scholarship for peace efforts to study at Georgetown University in Washington DC. I graduated from the School of Foreign Service for my hard work and dedication to peace.
Me: What can Americans do to ease this burden on Palestinians?
Saadeh: The government can do so many things to change this and especially the people. The government can stop using American tax money to fund Israel’s military and give them weapons of destruction used to wage wars. The American people should learn the truth of the issue between Palestine and Israel because many are unaware of the current situation, such as the effects of the Apartheid Wall the division it causes. Moreover there are checkpoints that traps us behind cages like animals in our own lands.
Me: Wow. You are and inspiration to so many! Please stay strong.
Saadeh: I am happy to speak to you, you seem like a very amazing person Me: I care deeply for Palestine. My family members went through similar struggles in the 60s and 70s. USA has been a very discriminate country at one time or another and towards one religious or ethnic group at one time. The story of Palestinians is a reminder of my parents own struggle through history. What would your advice be to other children living under occupation or similar situations?
Saadeh: My motivation was to set an example for other Palestinian children actually. The most important thing is not to let the occupation beat you mentally, never let it destroy your dreams because that will only make them stronger.
Me: Excellent advice! Thank you brother your story made me cry be safe and I will speak with you soon.
And at that, case closed. The charming and talented Saadeh had business to attend to. I hope you enjoy this interview as a gift this holiday season and here is a link to Saadeh’s latest video Tears Over Palestine.