Jewish-Arab Circus

Coming together


In northern Israel, Arab and Jewish children are finding common ground in an unusual way - at a youth circus.

Based in the town of Carmiel, the Galilee Circus aims to bring the two communities together by teaching friendship and co-operation through the performing arts.

There are 50 Arab and Jewish performers, from mainly Jewish Carmiel and Israeli Arab villages, who meet for classes twice a week in a community centre gymnasium.

'Beautiful people'


Fourteen-year-old Manar Asadi is from the village of Dir El Assad. She said she never met any Jewish children before she joined the circus.

"At first I thought they were bad, but when I met them at the circus I found they were good and beautiful people," she said.

"I think the circus is a good idea because it is doing something special and it's good for our future.

"I hope I'm a good enough pupil so when I'm older I can become a proper circus performer."

Unity through fun


Shair Ben Yosef, 14, an Israeli Jew from the village of Atzmon, said he also met Arab children for the first time at the circus.

"I didn't know any Arabs before although I never felt hatred towards them. Now I have made a lot of Arab friends here," he said.

"I think the circus is a great way to bring Arab and Jewish children together, doing something that's fun."

Mutual suspicion


When the circus began it generated little interest and a lot of scepticism.

"In the early days it was hard to get kids to join," said Ahmad Sanally, the circus' manager. "Arab parents loved it but Jewish parents took a lot more convincing.

"The first time we did a show in Dir El Assad, Jewish people from Carmiel were too afraid to go.

"There's a lot of ignorance on both sides, which is something we're trying to overcome."







Language without words


The circus teaches a raft of skills, including juggling, high-wire, balancing, acrobatics, trapeze, unicycle-riding and rope-climbing.

It has an Israeli Arab manager and four Jewish teachers, including 37-year-old Gilad Finkel (pictured).

"In circus, there's a language without words," Gilad says.

"Verbal language can be a barrier. Here people must trust one another, especially when they're on the high-wire or jugging with fire."



"In our circus we have two goals: teaching skills and fostering co-existence," says Ahmad.

"We teach the kids about friendship and the importance of relations between Arabs and Jews.

"The first time you speak to the children about it, it's very hard, but we tell them each child who comes here must be prepared to learn the craft and accept each other."


Travelling circus


This summer a US youth circus - the St Louis Arches - joined the Galilee Circus for a two-week tour of Israel.

The groups performed in front of thousands of people in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

It was the first time the children from the Galilee Circus had performed outside their local area.

"It was amazing for the kids," said Gilad.

"They were on a continuous high and really got to know each other, which is what life is like in a travelling circus."

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