The Palestinian House of Friendship was founded in 1994 by Mohammed Sawalha and a team of active community leaders in Nablus. The organization was founded with the goals of instilling in young people the principles of democracy and human rights. At this time there was hope for the imminent creation of an independent Palestinian state, and PHF hoped to give young people the tools needed to become leaders in the new state. However, as conditions on the ground worsened and people lost confidence in the peace process, and as the second Intifada erupted, 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 (PDMC), recruiting over 500 volunteers to observe the first legislative elections for Palestinian leaders. This program was important to the spread of democratic ideals in the Palestinian Territories.
In the early years of PHF, we sponsored a heritage and folkloric exhibition that drew an audience of over 800 people and began to hold educational workshops to promote and preserve the knowledge of Palestinian history and culture. The purpose of this project was to acquaint the youth with the clothing and traditions of their ancestors. Exhibitions continue to occur on a yearly basis to preserve and celebrate Palestinian folklore.
Until the beginning of the second Intifada, PHF generated a large portion of its operating expenses by offering paid courses in English and Hebrew. Since 2004, however, this has become virtually impossible. Continuous curfews, desperate economic conditions, and travel restrictions between the nearby villages and the city of Nablus have severely limited PHF’s ability to generate income through language classes. Language classes are still held, but it is no longer a source of revenue as they are offered on a pro-bono basis.
Past donors have included international bodies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, the National Democracy Institute and the Canadian Embassy, and many local companies and donors have helped finance our projects as well.
PHF has faced many challenges but has continued programming by adapting to the changing circumstances. The youth initiatives PHF carries out have been widely successful, with numbers in the Girl Scout Troop and the Summer and Winter Camps increasing every year.