Israeli, Palestinian dancers defy status quo, to 'swing' in Ireland

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Although only a few kilometers apart, but separated by a wall and many checkpoints, a Palestinian and Israeli dancing troupe have decided to meet all the way in Ireland.

In touch through Facebook, the Swing Dance Palestine dance group in the Occupied West Bank attempted several times, without success, to meet with fellow dance enthusiasts in Tel Aviv, Israel's Ha’aretz newspaper reported.

The organizers of a dance festival in the Irish town of Cork were reportedly so enthusiastic about bringing Palestinians and Israelis to the dance floor that they offered both groups free tickets to attend the event in February.

Although the Palestinian dancers are against normalizing relations with Israel and are critical of Israeli policy, some of them say the dancing could slowly weaken stereotypes.

“I’m against normalization with Israel, because we’re not in a normal situation. We’re under occupation. But those who dance with us are Israelis who understand our oppression. The encounter with Israelis changed their image for me,” Yakub, a member of the Palestinian troupe told the Ha’aretz.

Birte Brodkorb, a German law student living in Tel Aviv, started the initiative six months ago and has been travelling to the Palestinian town of Beit Jala every Thursday afternoon to teach swing dancing.

“The separation between the peoples creates stereotypes,” Brodkorb said.

“I don’t think the meeting between the swing groups will bring peace, but I know that if they don’t meet, it will be harder.”

A regular in Brodkorb’s classes, Bethlehem native Sinan Abu Shanab said he come across the group while drunk.

“I danced a little and fell in love with Birte’s romantic idea, which is to connect people on both sides through dance,” he said, adding that “encounters like this give hope.”

Yakub said that while the dancing is fun, “it’s important that they [Israelis] understand our suffering as Palestinians.”

Yakub and Abu Shanab are among almost a dozen regulars in Brodkorb’s classes, where German and U.S. aid workers also come to dance.

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