The Palestinian House of Friendship is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestine, dedicated to serving the needs of children, youth and families who have been negatively affected by the on-going Israeli military occupation, by growing poverty, and by internal conflicts within Palestinian society. PHF is governed by an elected Board of Trustees, and it serves a broad community that encompasses nearby villages and three refugee camps. It is not affiliated with any political party, but rather uses its resources to mediate conflicts between parties and factions. This is particularly challenging in a society where party affiliation often means better access to resources. In all its activities PHF promotes the ideals of democracy, human rights and love for the other.
PHF was founded in 1994 when there was hope of the imminent creation of an independent Palestinian state. Its goals were to instill in young people the principles of democracy and human rights, and to give them the tools to be leaders in the new hoped-for state. However, as conditions on the ground worsened, as people lost confidence in the peace process, as the second Intifada erupted into violence, PHF was forced to redirect its energies and cut back on programming, while still maintaining its values and overall purpose. In 1996 PHF coordinated the Palestinian Domestic Monitoring Committee, recruiting over 500 volunteers to observe the first legislative elections for Palestinian leaders. During this period PHF also sponsored
The Smiling Faces Summer Camp has been a PHF priority since 2004. It provides a month-long recreational and health program to up to 150 children from families with unemployed parents, separated parents or whose fathers are political prisoners. It gives these children a taste of childhood pleasures to counteract the war-like environment in which they live, while it seeks to prevent delinquency and create leadership skills.
The camp activities include making traditional crafts, learning the Debka (Palestinian folk dance), singing, acting, sports, and excursions outside of the city. It is staffed by youth volunteers as well as professional camp counselors and social workers.
By its very existence, PHF is a positive influence in the city, which suffers from internal factionalism as well as from the frequent Israeli military incursions. Through periodic folkloric and cultural festivals, it seeks to instill a sense of pride in Palestinian examples of beauty, cooperation and peacemaking. They have formed a group of young musicians and singers who perform songs of peace, love and justice.
In the winter of 2007-08 PHF conducted three workshops on the role of youth in elections and democratic life.
PHF has been evaluated by the Palestinian Educational Directorate and the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and found to be one of the top performers.
PHF is seeking funding to purchase a permanent home and expand its services to a larger part of the community and neighboring villages.
PHF is planning to start a community based radio station called Nablus Community Radio. Radio provides a unique vehicle for disseminating PHF’s values of civic education, democracy and respect for individuals and cultures. It is a powerful tool for engaging in constructive dialogue, amplifying the voices of grassroots people, and reaching beyond the confines of the city to all of the West Bank and Gaza, to Israel, and hopefully to other countries as well.
“Unlike programs where people need to come to our center, Nablus Community Radio will be able to reach people with vastly different affiliations, from different social and political groups and of different ages... and it will not be lessened by difficult travel conditions,” says Director Mohammed Sawalha.
The radio station will contribute to a culture of civic dialogue in Palestine, provide an outlet for creative expression through music, acting and storytelling, and educate the community about examples of democracy, reconciliation, love, and friendship as they are present in Palestinian history, traditions and folklore.
Through radio programming people outside of Nablus will have a window into the civic and cultural life of Palestine. To bridge the gap in communication, there will be programs in English and Hebrew as well as Arabic.
Nablus Community Radio will also bring news, culture and history from other parts of the world, thus expanding awareness of and connection to other peoples.
Programming will include local and international news, music, language lessons, discussion of topics to nourish body, mind and spirit, subjects of interest to youth and to educate children, interviews with artists, athletes, farmers, workers, politicians, religious and business leaders, and peacemakers.
It is PHF’s mission to provide a space, training and an example for all Palestinians of what it means to be a compassionate, democratic, creative and loving human being, in order to create a state of mind and a nation-state that will guide Palestine into the future. While the programs may change to match a changing environment, the goals remain the same:
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