Visiting MAFPA (the franco-palestinian friendship house)
Posted by worriedlebanese on 26/11/2006
Asile, a French NGO, set up a Franco-Palestinian friendship house in Beddawi, a Palestinian camp situated a couple of miles north of Tripoli. Two days ago, there was trouble in this camp, after the police discovered an arm stash. But this didn’t stop us from going there.
It was the third time this year I entered a Palestinian camp. During this first visit, I started to notice how familiar they had become to me. Architecturally, they didn’t differ much from the neighbouring towns or cities. The only distinctive signs were political, and they were to be found everywhere, on walls, on banners, in street names… All posters, names, graffiti, wall drawings, streamers and flags were political, and they all referred to Palestine.
The Franco-Palestinian friendship house has been operating in Lebanon for several years now. Its main activity takes place in summer when a team of artists, educators, journalists and animators fly in from France to start a three week workshop that is proposed to children living in the camp.
The team that operates the house is entirely Palestinian and quite young and dynamic. They are now proposing academic support lessons to children, and some cultural activities (such as a weekly film projection). I really enjoyed the dynamism in this group and would greatly enjoy working with them. They are all Palestinian francophone. They graduated from the handful of francophone schools UNRWA operates in Lebanon. I wonder if we could associate them in the coming future to a program managed by Peace Initiatives in collaboration with AILES, a Lebanese association proposing similar activities. This could help to bridge the two communities and to increase the outreach of the programs of each association.
What never fails to amaze me is the extent to which the Palestinian accent is preserved in the Palestinian camps, some Lebanese expressions are used, and some Palestinian expressions are dropped, and I’m sure the Palestinian living in the camps no longer share the dialect spoken by those still living in Northern Israel, but they retain inflections, expressions and an accent that is easily identifiable as Palestinian. But those who have been to a Lebanese University to complete their studies also master the Lebanese dialect and can quite aptly switch from one to another. This duality is also to be found during presentations when they decline two geographic identities, that of the village their forefathers left in Palestine, and that of the camp or Lebanese locality they live in.