Dabke, which means “stomp,” is the traditional folkloric dance of Palestine and neighboring countries. Al-Raja is the Arabic word for “hope,” which is exactly what dabke represents to Palestinian students. The bold movements, traditional embroidered costumes, and lively Arab music convey both the history of Palestinians and their hopes and dreams for freedom and peace in their land.
Students of the Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah have performing dabke locally and internationally as the al-Raja Folkloric Dance Troupe since 2004, when they were founded with financial assistance from Grefsen Videregaende Skole in Oslo. That year (and again in 2010) they traveled to perform in Norway. In 2006, the Troupe was honored to tour 12 US states sharing their dance and their message of hope. Consistent with the values of all of the schools of the ELCJHL, al-Raja gives opportunities for boys and girls to dance together in one troupe, witnessing together for peace and justice in their community.
“We are from Palestine, and we will never leave it,” shared one dancer from al-Raja Dance Troupe at the ELCA Youth Gathering in San Antonio, Texas. Dancers 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 the youth a few dabke dance steps. When they showed photographs and told about the 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.”