Osaid, a long-time speaker and Fellow with SNS, is a Palestinian Citizen of Israel from Arara. He works as a songwriter, musician and music producer. We're publishing his story to coincide with International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, as at SNS one of our core principles is the importance of putting Palestinian and Israeli voices back at the heart of education and activism on this issue.
Out there between imaginary borders that run through the Holy Land like veins in the wrist, a small town called Arara is situated right in the middle of these borders, a town that is on one side but also at the same time is on the other side.
As a little kid who was born and raised in this small town I was introduced into a reality that was way too complex for me to wrap my little head around at the time. The first 5 years of my life were just living under the protective wings of my family, not knowing anything about what is an 'Israeli person' and what is a 'Palestinian person' - I was simply me, Osaid, and that was all I knew.
When the first day in kindergarten arrived my parents sent me to a rather unique school that just opened in a town nearby, the school was called "Hand in Hand - Bridge over the Valley". It is a bilingual school that brings Israeli and Palestinian elementary-age kids to come and study together in the same classroom, with classes held in both Arabic and Hebrew with two teachers teaching at the same time. There on my first day I remember meeting the first Jewish Israeli person in my life; his name was Assaf. He was 5 years old as well and we hit it off as friends from day one and that friendship opened my mind to what an Israeli person is and could be, but I didn't really think about that until later in my life because at the time all I wanted to do was see Assaf and play with him - just as any kids around the world want to do.
Fast forward a few years and the school has became a full functioning elementary school from kindergarten till sixth grade, recognised by the ministry of education. In 2011 after 7 years I finished studying at this incredible school, which shaped me and my values for life, and now it was time to move on into a normal Palestinian Arab middle school, where I would no longer see my Jewish Israeli friends from Hand in Hand. In middle school I was introduced into new narratives and new people who didn't go through the bilingual school like me and some of my friends did and it was a bit shocking to me at first. I was introduced to a new narrative and way of thinking but I was still missing the interaction with the ‘other side’ and especially as I was starting to build up who I am and what I stand for, it was very important for me to find programmes which would help me develop the person I want to become.
So after a lot of searching, in 2014 I attended a 3 weeks summer camp in the United States called "Seeds of Peace". This international camp is one that hosts young people from conflict areas around the world to come and live together, eat together, do activities together but most importantly engage in 4 hours of daily dialogue together throughout the whole programme. In these dialogue sessions we would talk about everything we felt, thought or believed about our conflicts. It was here that I essentially started to build my political worldview and began to understand other people's views. It helped me become more connected to where I come from as well as understand the history behind it.
During my junior and senior year in high school where I attended an international boarding school called "The Eastern Mediterranean International school" or "EMIS" in Tel Aviv. There I was living for two years with over 200 students from over 50 countries. I shared my room with 3 more students who became not just my friends but more like my family - I was living with Yoav from Israel, Benjamin from Poland and Sebastian from Ecuador. In that school I realised what I wanted to do with my life and that was Music.
After graduating from "EMIS" in 2018 I moved into a small apartment in Tel Aviv to pursue music. I knew very well that I didn’t want to go to university or study anything academic because music is my true passion and I want my professional career to be based on it. Today I'm a professional music producer and songwriter where I have my own recording studio that hosts many local and foreign artists. But the road to becoming a music producer wasn't easy. I faced many challenges from my family and my conservative community as well as political challenges that were set for me automatically for being a Palestinian. One of the hardest hurdles I had to overcome was living and finding work as a Palestinian Citizen of Israel in Tel Aviv, where most jobs I applied for rejected me; I had a similar experience with all the apartment buildings I applied to live in, which gave me a strong sense of being less equal citizen. Outside of my personal bubble, my entire Palestinian community are going through these kinds of challenges - in terms of poor infrastructure, lower standards of educational outcome, discriminatory laws or just being racially profiled in the streets. These challenges make me and my community feel like outsiders who didn't belong - but as the native people of this land it pushes me at least to fight and call for equality and justice for all Palestinians, whether they are citizens of Israel or living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
Now I'm 22 years old, I have lived through many experiences which have helped shape me and what I stand for. I've gone through so many political, social, financial and religious roller coasters that sometimes strayed me away from my core values and some other times it brought me closer to them. But now I feel like I'm still that same 5 year old Osaid who looks at himself as nothing more than a human being, a human being that looks to create a real long-lasting change in this reality which I was brought up in - through art and music.