Al Raja Dance Troupe has made it from Chicago, through Nebraska, California, Texas, Minnesota and now Appleton, Wisconsin. They have performed in churches, auditoriums and even in the Alamo Dome, in front of 20,000 people, sharing their culture, dance and life with those they meet. They have introduced hundreds to Palestine and – more importantly, Palestinians.
At workshops during both weeks of the ELCA Youth Gatherings, the young people described their lives and realities to American kids like them.
We are from Palestine, and we will never leave it,” one dancer from the Al-Raja Dance Troupe told a crowd of 100 gathered at the ELCA Youth Gathering in San Antonio, Texas, in early July. They described life under occupation, and invited their audience to come and visit them and see for themselves. The group showed a slide presentation, told stories about their lives and taught others steps from “debka,” their folk dance. When they showed slides and told about the almost 30-ft wall being built through the middle of Palestinian land, only a fraction of the Americans present knew anything about it. Two young people from Nebraska were shocked by what they heard, and told the Ramallah group that they would organize a trip to visit them. “We want to get involved and do something. We have to,” they said.
The group has been touring in the US since mid-June, performing and telling their stories in Chicago, Nebraska and California and has now reached San Antonio, Texas. Here they performed for the Multi-Cultural Youth Leadership Event and will be performing at both sessions of the Youth Gathering. After San Antonio, they will travel to Minnesota, Wisconsin and New England.
Group tour leader the Rev. Ann Helmke facilitates a workshop with 6 of the Al-Raja Dance Troupe. They talked about life under occupation, what it is like to live under curfew or behind a wall and be forbidden to leave their town without permits. “We’re just human beings. We want to live normal lives like anyone else.” The group asked the Americans to come and see them and to read more about the situation.