August 21, 2012 – Growing up a Catholic Palestinian in Israel, Raffoul Saadeh (SFS’12) has had an unusual experience in the tumultuous region of the Middle East.
“I was a minority within a minority living amidst a majority Muslim and Jewish population in the Holy Land,” he says.
Saadeh, who was born in Connecticut but moved to Jerusalem as a child, faced scrutiny from Israeli security forces every time he traveled between the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Divorced, his mother lives in Jerusalem and his father in the West Bank.
“It was a mission to reach from one place to another,” he says. “I had to pass through two checkpoints, including the 30-foot separation barrier and the process required a full body check…”
Complicating matters, Saadeh says he felt “marginalized politically” from other Palestinians because to him, political organizations seemed more concerned with building a state solely on Islamic principles.
“It was certainly a struggle to define my identity,” he says.
Helping Palestinian Christians
Saadeh’s childhood experiences drove him to seek social justice for others during his time at Georgetown.
In 2011, Saadeh volunteered to represent Georgetown with the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation at the group’s 13th Annual International Conference in Washington, D.C.
“The mission of the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation is to develop bonds between the Palestinian Christians and the Christians all around the world in order to remove the causes of suffering and immigration to other locations,” the culture and politics major explains.
Saadeh also founded two groups dedicated to driving for social change and awareness to the plight of Palestinians – Volunteers for Palestinian Refugee Rights and Palestinian Awareness Experience in the Palestinian Territory.
“Our mission is to [promote] social change through renovating houses, developing education, motivating individuals and encouraging interreligious dialogue in Palestinian Refugee camps,” he says about the first group.
The other group’s goal is to strengthen intercultural and interreligious dialogue among tourists of all nations.
His desire to help others in need also led him to participate in the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan and Advocates for Youth and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Meaning of Life
Rev. Raymond Kemp’s “Church and the Poor” class had a significant impact on him, he says, especially a class service trip to Camden, N.J., to experience how people survive in an environment filled with violence, poverty and drugs.
“It taught me so much about the true meaning of life,” says Saadeh. “This class motivated me to be a person for others…”
Saadeh, who now works for Teach for America in Maryland, hopes to motivate children to overcome daily hardships and educational disadvantages to find success in the classroom and eventually in life.
He hopes one day to establish a Teach for Palestine organization to help bridge the education disparity gap in his childhood home.
“I have seen firsthand the importance of determination and persistence in confronting obstacles,” he says, citing his own experiences as a youth. “For that reason, I want to become a part of the solution to educational inequity.”