Rabaa Murkus and Sharon Eskenazi created “Gsharim-جسور” an Arab-Jewish dance company. The company performs dances that bridge intercultural, national and class rifts. The two advanced their dream of a shared troupe with the French “dancing without borders” group. I heard about the group from Sharon’s mother who is an activist working to promote good neighborly relations between Arabs and Jews in the Galilee.

Let’s start with an Aperitif (as this post has a French twist…), a few pictures of Israeli dancers, both Arabs and Jews together with dancers from Lyon, France all coming together from different religions and neighborhoods…

Rabaa from Kafr Yasif and Sharon from Cabri met in the 90s at a dance studio in Ga’aton. There they connected on the personal, artistic and professional levels. In time, Sharon turned to teaching and Rabaa became a professional dancer and choreographer. Their paths have crossed several times since then with their students on shared projects about territory and identity. While Rabaa went on to open her own dance studio in Kafr Yasif and following that also created the first (and only at this time) dance program in Arab society, Sharon taught in the Ga’aton dance program. The two began a collaboration between their programs. They set joint meetings, workshops and traveling to see performances together with their students. The collaboration lasted two years and was fraught with difficulties and instances of racism. In 2006 Sharon moved to Lyon in France, but despite the physical distance, her friendship and ideological partnership with Rabaa continued.

Sharon, who believes in the power of dance to create a break-out, open and human intersection in places laden with conflict and strife, searched for a way to continue her work with Rabaa in France. Together with the Centre Choreographique National de Rillieux-la-Pape, CCNR, she created a dance company called ‘Dancing without Borders’. The group consists of young people from needy neighborhoods as well as youngsters from more established neighborhoods. This diverse group allows for a meeting of cultures, classes and religions.

During these years, the Gsharim – جسور group was created in Israel establishing a unique and strong connection between Jews and Palestinians promoting a non-compromising discourse about the challenge and with it the possibility of both nationalities living together. The group consists of twelve young dancers, some amateurs and some professionals. The group performs at galleries and theaters in Israel. Their latest dance called, ‘falling between the lines’ was choreographed by Rabaa. It’s based on the dancers’ personal experiences. Rabaa has turned her choreographic process into a type of partnership with the dancers.

Rabaa and Sharon decided that their groups should meet under the auspices of the Israel-France Friendship Year. They wanted to deepen the tie between the groups and build bridges through dance between the different cultures, nationalities, religions and backgrounds. The shared program of ‘Gsharim Passerelles جسور’ began in 2014/5 and is still running (2018). It works in such a way that each group is either the host or the guest of the other. There have been a few meetings since then, workshops and professional education tours, etc.

Joint educational workshop at Vertigo, Israel

Workshop with Ido Tadmor in Israel

A picture from the ‘between the lines’ dance performance, choreography by Rabaa Murkus

This year, the choreographer, Yuval Pick, created a performance for both groups which they started working on even before the two groups met. He worked with each group individually for months in its country. The highlight of the process was the meeting of the two groups to work together. The new dance is called ‘flowers crack concrete’ and it was performed in Haifa, Israel and in Lyon, France at the global dance biennial. A very distinguished place to show a unique and bridging dance. The dance addresses the spaces between people, in groups, the space that allows you to hold out your hand, touch and share a common space. The project was supported by the Lyon Choreographic Centre, CCNR, led by Yuval Pick, the French Ministry of Culture and Education, Plus Erasmus, Francais Institut and the Foreign Office (the France-Israel Friendship Year headquarters). You can view a French report on this here.

And here is a collection of photos from the last global dance biennial in Lyon.


To sum up, let me share an ‘it’s a small world’ anecdote. A few days ago, I was invited to the Docu-Dance Festival at the Suzanne Dellal Centre. We watched a documentary film following three figures who are prominent in dance. The second part follows an Arab dancer called Nur, who’s been Rabaa’s student for some years and a member of ‘Gsharim’, I was in the middle of writing this post, about the joint dance group, and I was so happy to find another, very personal aspect about a dancer in the group. The film spoke of the support and personal training that Rabaa had provided for Nur. Also, about the dancing world’s warm supportive environment that has benefited him. A fascinating story that fills me with hope despite the complications and difficulties strewn along the way. I’ll end this post with a picture of Nur, taken at the September 2018 performance in Lyon, the picture documents one moment and one motion that were obviously taken out of the context of an elegant dance performance, but you can’t remain unmoved, and maybe it also helps me express my feelings and summation: thank you wholeheartedly Rabaa and Sharon – thank you – powerful women – you are our hope.