[URBAN NOTE] CBC and Torontoist on the closing of Beit Zatoun, Mirvish Village
CBC News’ Laura Howells reported on the imminent closure of Palestinian diaspora centre Beit Zatoun, displaced by the transformation of Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village.
Toronto’s rampant development is claiming another casualty this week: community space Beit Zatoun will host its final event on Wednesday.
Tucked away in the Annex neighbourhood, Beit Zatoun has become a hub of social justice and activism in the city.
In its nearly seven years, the Markham street location has hosted more than 1,000 events — everything from poetry readings to film showings, meetings, lectures, art and music.
But like its neighbour, Honest Ed’s, Beit Zatoun will soon be demolished to make way for the Mirvish Village development.
“It has blazed a path for the grass roots community,” said founder Robert Massoud.
“And now in its leaving, it leaves a hole. And so hopefully people can recognize the need to fill that hole in a different way.”
At Torontoist, Amanda Ghazale Aziz wrote about Beit Zatoun’s impact on her own life.
Beit Zatoun helped me learn about my maternal family. What I got out of this place were tiny fractions of my heritage that wouldn’t have been recovered by my mother’s memory or a detailed Google search. I knew folks who were in the same boat as me, but it was a matter of finding a physical ground.
A community can work to revive lost histories and traditions, but it’s location that gathers them together.
Over the past seven years, Beit Zatoun—“House of Olive” in Arabic—has hosted over 1,000 events coming from virtually every community making up Toronto and cutting across many dimensions of identity. It worked tirelessly to create a community based on mutual awareness and building solidarity. Only 25 per cent of its events had anything to do with the Middle East and the centre was well-known in left and radical activist movements as much as it was a space for the arts, like the Shab-e She’r poetry nights.
To me, it felt like visiting the home of a relative you hadn’t seen in a decade.
While it took me forever to finally visit, I was welcomed with a quiet hospitality by way of treats when I did make the trek. And every single time after that. In fact, Beit Zatoun events were known for having bread, olive oil, za’atar to dip, coffee with cardamom, and tea with sage adorn the tables for people to consume.