Can the Circus Save the World?
In a world – and a region – where fear and distrust between peoples lead to insecurity and violence daily, it just might be that a circus can make a difference! After all, what is circus all about? It's about overcoming fear, it's about trust, it's based on non-verbal communication, it represents a multicultural tradition – and its purpose is to make people smile.
The late Australian circus artist and educator Reg Bolton has written about “circus to save the world.” When you see the child of Russian immigrants from Karmiel balancing on the shoulders of his Arab peer from Deir al-Assad – you know exactly what he means. When the kids stop the music at the curtain call of their first show to say – in Hebrew and in Arabic – “The Galilee Circus family thanks you…” you understand that this not just another after-school activity. These kids come on their own time (from different communities, different religions, speaking different languages), they commit themselves, and they understand that they have to do what they do in complete cooperation with ''The Other'' – or they will do nothing at all. Galilee Circus founder Rabbi Marc Rosenstein has written about the reasons for a circus in the Galilee in Circus in a Frayed Tent; see the side bar to the right for further details and acknowledgement.
Circus will not bring peace to the Middle East. But it can help to make dialogue possible by reducing fears, lowering barriers, and building trust. It can provide a model of a shared loyalty that transcends ethnic identities. It can teach the art of taking risks for the common good. It can demonstrate, to a wide audience, that what appears to be impossible is indeed possible. None of these may be sufficient to bring about the requisite social change, but without them, no change is possible.
The Galilee Circus includes 80 kids of ages 6-18, Arab and Jewish, from the towns and villages around Karmiel in the heart of the Galilee. Rehearsals are held after school in a community center gym, and we perform all over the region for schools, festivals, businesses, etc. The circus has an active parents' committee that helps out at performances, and organizes occasional social activities for the circus kids and their families.
Michal Halel Abulafia is our circus arts coach, assisted by youth counselor Ahmed Sanallah and occasional visiting coaches in aspects of circus and theatre. A number of our alumni have received training in peer coaching, and have joined the coaching staff as volunteers and role models, and even as part time paid coaches.
The fees paid by the participants – and the audiences – cover only a small part of the cost of travel, rent, and equipment. If you can help with these costs please consider donating here. You can also link your bar/bat mitzvah to the circus!
You don't have to run away from home to be a part of the Galilee Circus!