Palestinian Student Association: A True Sense of Unity

The Palestinian Student Association is a new RSO on campus that is focused on spreading the beauty of Palestinian culture to UCF. As a cultural organization, most of its members are those of Palestinian descent who seek to serve as a familiar community filled with bonds and shared traditions. But its doors are open to non-Palestinians, as well for those who either already have a love for Palestine or are eager to learn more. To talk some more about PSA, I sat down with the president, Leyla Idheileh, and the treasurer, Noor Abdulrahman, to talk about the organization as a whole, as well as their plans for the future.

To have a general understanding of what this RSO is trying to do, here is their mission statement: “To unite all Palestinians on campus to celebrate our rich culture and bring it to life. We also want all Palestinian students to be able to participate in cultural events to bring a sense of home to UCF.”

  1. 1. Tell me about the Palestinian Student Association.

    Leyla: “We just started it not too long ago — I think it was around three weeks ago that we were officially registered as an RSO. We wanted to start an association on campus where Palestinians, and non-Palestinians, could come and learn about the culture, as well as celebrate it together. I transferred last spring, so I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a PSA given that there are so many Palestinians on campus. So, I feel like we all wanted to make something so that we could all come together and, like I said, celebrate our culture.”

    Noor: “Also, I think the focus with Palestine is always too political with everything; we’re always looking at the tragedies, which is important to acknowledge, but at the same time people need to understand more about the culture, and the people, to actually appreciate the country itself before getting into politics.”

  2. 2. What are some events that you’re planning on having, either this semester or the next?

    At the time that this article was written, PSA had just hosted its first potluck which was a great success filled with delicious food and lots of dancing!

    Leyla: “We’re actually planning on having a dabke team; I feel the dabke team is what’s going to bring everyone together — it’s just a good way of having fun and enjoying ourselves, as well as our time together. I feel the team is what is going to make the club grow stronger and encourage people to show up.”

    Noor: “Hopefully, we are going to have cultural workshops every month with different subjects, such as poetry — which has a strong influence in Palestine — and the different cities to show why they’re important to Palestine. On Instagram, we are also going to do a city spotlight every week or so on the story where we pick a city and just talk about it.”

  3. 3. For the people out there who haven’t experienced Palestinian culture, what would you like them to know?

    Leyla: “First of all, we’re very fun! If you’ve ever been to one of our weddings, they're really, really exciting and one of the true experiences of Palestinian culture. We love everyone, and everyone is always welcome — Palestinians don’t discriminate!”

    Noor: “We’re fun people and very hospitable; we like inviting people over even if they’re not from the same culture or religion as us — it’s very important to have a sense of community in Palestine.”

  4. 4. Why do you think it’s important to have cultural organizations, like PSA or VASA, on campus?

    Noor: “I think it’s important because in America there are so many different types of cultures and religions, so we need to outline that ‘Here we are!’ and that this is our culture but at the same time we’re Americans — so there are two sides to us.”

    Leyla: “I feel like it provides a sense of home for everyone — both you and everyone else are familiar with your culture and traditions so it just feels like a place similar to being at home even while on such a big campus that has so many people.”

  5. 5. PSA is a part of the Union of Muslim Organizations, what is that?

    Leyla: “Being that PSA is specifically cultural, there are also a lot of Palestinians who are Muslims, and also a lot who are Christian, but MSA reached out to us and wanted to start the Union of Muslim Organizations. It doesn’t just include religious groups, it includes cultural groups too, so it’s a way for all of us to come together and unite. Like he says, it’s one ummah, so it’s one community for all the Muslims to come together.”

    Noor: “Yeah, and if there was a Christian unity organization we’d be happy to join that as well because everyone should feel included and there are also a lot of Palestinian Christians. So if we’ve joined one, we would join the other as well.”

  6. 6. Where would you like to see PSA end up?

    Leyla: “Since we started it this semester, I don’t want it to die down and I hope with time it only gets bigger. I also hope that the officers who take over next year keep it going so that it continues to grow so that people are still interested and it isn’t forgotten.”

    Noor: “We want to have a significance on UCF’s campus so that people are super excited to go see an event. One of our goals is to also go to Palestine as a group one day.”

Much like Leyla and Noor said during the interview, Palestinians really do have an incredible sense of hospitality. I attended the first general body meeting and was instantly swept away with how kind and friendly everyone on the board was —  there was no doubt about it, I knew I was going to join from the moment I stepped in. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, as well as attend fun events like the potluck, and I’m so excited to see what they have in store for the spring semester. If you’re interested in being a part of the Palestinian Student Association or would like to learn more, follow them on their Instagram, @ucf_palestine!