Lean and mean? Arab belly dancers ignore politics at Israeli festival


While Arab politicians might avoid visiting Israel at any cost given its hostile status and disputes over the still unresolved occupation of Palestinian land; Arab belly dancers are reportedly having a much leaner approach.

Arab belly dancers and oriental dance teachers from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco will head to Israel to participate in the world’s biggest belly dancing festival, local media reported.

Around 950 dancers will partake in the four-day event starting January 16 in the southernmost city in Israel, Eilat, Ynet News reported Friday. The paper, however, didn’t detail the exact number of Arab belly dancers and teachers participating.

Despite the Israeli operation that began with a missile strike targeting the military wing of Islamist group Hamas in mid-November in Gaza Strip, there were no cancelations by the Arab participants, Orit Maftsir, one of the festival’s organizers and a world-renowned belly dancer, said.

Turkish belly dancers and teachers will also join the event. In 2010, Turkish-Israeli relations turned sour when Israeli troops attacked a Turkish flotilla loaded with aids to the sanctions-hit Gaza Strip. Nineteen activists were killed including nine Turks during the attack.

“Beyond the cultural relations the festival creates between the region’s countries, it also helps strengthen relations between the people,” the Jewish daily reported Roni Pivko, the managing director of the Club Hotel chain, as saying.

The paper said “the highlight of the event” is Arab belly dancers and teachers showing that they are “not afraid to come to Israel and vibrate their hips for peace.”

Famed Egyptian dancers including Fifi Abdu, Lucy and Dina, who are the most well-known in the Arab World, have long rejected participation in the event, which will be held for the ninth time this year.

Voluptuous Abdu said that she was invited before to the event to dance and to train other dancers, but she rejected.

Abdu said “all Egyptians from birth hate Israel,” and that they all reject normalizing relations with the Jewish state.

The Club Hotel chain, which will host the event, will have “dancers from all over the world, with live music orchestra, workshops, shows, competitions and night parties,” Eilat Festival’s official page said on its website.

Eilat, known as a vacation gateway, is located on the Red Sea with both Egypt and Jordan across its borders.