Last June, the Leicester-Palestine Solidarity Campaign group organised a visit to their city by the Hakaya group from the Ghirass Centre in Bethlehem. One of the previous groups of young dancers had visited us in 2013 for a week, the story of which is told in our short film Hakaya Dancing For Palestine (made by committee member Samiha Abdeldjebar).
We have since kept in regular contact with our friends from Bethlehem, and the director of the centre, Ibtisam Ilzoghayyer is one of our Patrons. Our committee members Samiha and Judith visited the Ghirass Centre in Bethlehem last year as part of a trip to the West Bank, and were very impressed by the incredible work done there with the local youth.
So when we received an invitation to see Hakaya’s concert in Leicester, we jumped at the chance. Judith, Samiha and new member Penny were kindly hosted by Claire. The trip was the occasion for a happy reunion with Ibtisam, Maher Mahmood (musician), and Yazan Mezher one of the ex-dancers from 2013 who is now dance coach and me for this new group of young performers.
The young artists performed to a full house. The Palestinian Dabka dancing, accompanied by singing and drumming, was mesmerising. The young people wore the beautiful traditional costume of Bethlehem. The show was followed by a Q&A session, in which the children spoke very eloquently about how they nurture their heritage and use the rich culture of Palestine to connect with audiences abroad and spread the message about their struggle for self-determination, freedom and human rights.
The Leicester activists form a vibrant, dynamic group, and regularly draw local and national attention with their efforts to implement the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign in their city. We were very impressed by their competence and warm welcome, and wholeheartedly thank them for their generous hospitality.